Edo State Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon.Comrade Philip Shaibu has played host to players and officials of the visiting Santos Football Club of Brazil at the Government House, Benin City.
While receiving the team, the sports- loving Deputy Governor expressed delight at the choice of the ultra-modern Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for the novelty match played last Sunday between the Brazilian club and the state-owned Bendel lnsurance FC of Benin.
The Brazilian club visit to Benin City, the Edo State capital, is coming 53 years after their previous match with Bendel Insurance during the civil war which united all Nigerians for 48 hours. The match was played at the same Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.
According to Shaibu,”the memories are still very fresh as if it were Sunday’s novelty football match. It reminded many on how Africa and indeed, Nigeria stood still 53 years ago for the game of football between Santos FC and Bendel Insurance”.
“It also reminded us of where we are coming from and where we are heading to. The most significant aspect of our discussion was that there is power in the game of football and the power is beyond any other force anybody can think of; a game that could unite”.
“Nigeria was united for 48 hours in a football match between Bendel Insurance and Santos FC of Brazil, led by veteran players, Pele and Jonas Eduardo Américo, known as Edu, played in Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium during the civil war and there was a cease fire”.
“That was a very strong message to all that sports is a unifying factor and the spirit behind it is unimaginable. Edo State is bringing back its lost glory after going on recess since 2006″.
He added:”we decided to keep the name ‘Bendel Insurance’ after the creation of Edo and Delta States because of its past glory”.
“Today, we are glad to have the Santos FC delegation and we are ready to sign a Memorandum Of Understanding, MOU to partner our football academy in the shortest possible time”.
“Edo State Sports Commission was last week, given a nod to develop plan for a football academy, the Commission will follow up with the technical exchange partnership, as we look forward to Bendel Insurance FC playing a friendly game with Santos FC in Brazil as a return friendly match.”
“Sports, especially football in Edo State, has become a tool we are developing to totally reduce illegal migration and other social vices.amongst our youth”, Shaibu stated.
A letter of appreciation addressed to the Governor through the Nigeria Ambassador to Santos FC who doubles as President, Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Rev. Samuel Ikpea, reads in part:”His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Edo State,Nigeria, Mr Godwin Obaseki, I have been mandated to deliver to you a formal and heartfelt letter of appreciation on your magnanimous and kind gesture to host Santos FC and its delegation from Brazil in Benin City, Edo State”.
“We truly believe that this kind gesture from His Excellency is a testimonial of your personal kind heartedness and of course, the renowned and good nature of the people of Edo State”.
“Most importantly, we want to reaffirm our commitment towards fostering a better socio-cultural relationship with Brazil and the good people of Nigeria, using football as a viable tool”.
“Once again, we express our gratitude and appreciation to you and the good people of Edo State and Nigeria in general. Accept our regards”, Signed by the President of Santos FC, Andrés Rueda.
The Deputy Governor was presented with the new Santos FC Jersey, the third jersey in the history of the club.
The delegation had the likes of Jonas Eduardo Américo, nicknamed Edu and Manuel Maria, amongst others.
It would be recalled that Santos FC last sunday, engaged Bendel Insurance in a friendly match inside the mainbowl of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium with the Deputy Governor featuring for the Benin Arsenal.
The match which attracted a mammoth crowd of football lovers, ended two goals to one in favour of Bendel Insurance FC.