The impressive performance recorded by Bendel Insurance Football Club in recent times reaffirms the saying that success comes to those who work hard and stays with those who don’t rest on the laurels of the past.
Coming from being crowned Champions of the 2023 Federation’s Cup after a 1-0 victory against Rangers International of Enugu at the final match played at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State, on 21 June 2023, which earned them a place in the CAF Confederation Cup, Bendel Insurance FC of Benin at the weekend defeated Aso Chlef FC of Algeria by a lone goal in the CAF Confederation Cup preliminary clash at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City.
Bendel Insurance last played at the continental stage some 34 years ago. Their last appearance in the FA Cup finals was in 2006 when they suffered a 4-2 defeat to Dolphins of Port Harcourt in a penalty shootout. They were relegated to the lower division of Nigerian League at the end of the 2007/08 season after finishing last in the league, but regained their position in the 2019 season. However, they were relegated again after just one season, but won promotion back to the NPFL towards the end of the 2022 season.
Since their return to the NPFL, Bendel Insurance have been nothing but impressive. Notably, the club displaced Akwa Utd’s 18-match unbeaten record with a 21-match unbeaten record until the Super Six playoffs in Lagos where they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Rivers Utd and a 1-0 loss to Remo Stars on the last day of the season.
With their victory over Algeria’s ASO Chlef in Benin, there is hope that Bendel Insurance will also clinch victory in the return leg in Algeria.
While much of this success can be attributed to hard work on the part of the players and their managers, we do not lose sight of the massive sports infrastructure development by the Edo State Government, led by Governor Godwin Obaseki, which has created an enabling environment for the players.
It is on record that the Obaseki-led administration has transformed the Ogbemudia Stadium into a world-class sports facility, with a 12,000-capacity covered arena, natural turf and refitted running tracks, tennis and squash courts, a new Olympic-size swimming pool, indoor suspended gymnasium, as well as facilities for weightlifting, wrestling and other combat sports. The stadium has also been outfitted with new high-capacity electronic score screens, floodlights and Video Assistant Referee technology.
And it has been a rain of commendations from all quarters, just as the stadium has become the desired spot for local and international sporting events.
In February this year, Super Eagles Manager José Peseiro was in Benin City to inspect the stadium and was highly impressed with the facilities.
In May, the stadium hosted the week-long trial games of the Federation of International Sports Union (FISU) that saw students from universities across Nigeria competing to win a slot to represent the country in the World University Games slated for later this year.
In June, after Bendel Insurance emerged Champions in the Federation’s Cup, the Edo Renaissance Forum, led by Victor Omorogbe, sent commendations to Governor Obaseki for reinventing sports in the state.
Between 5-7 July 2023, the stadium hosted the second consecutive Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) national trials, which saw a gathering of over 160 athletes, including world champion Tobi Amusan, Ese Brume, and other foreign-based athletes. Last year, the stadium hosted the trials for both the World Championships in Oregon, US, and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
Earlier in August, a CAF delegation was at the Ogbemudia Stadium to inspect facilities as the stadium is one of the designated venues for the 36th CAF Nations’ Cup competition that Nigeria is bidding to co-host with Benin Republic in 2027. They had positive comments.
Earlier in August too, the NPFL broadcast partner, Propel Sports, announced the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium among 10 stadiums that have been selected for live streaming of the NPFL games in the 2023/24 season expected to commence on August 26, 2023.
When three legends of the Samuel Ogbemudia sports revolution in the old Midwest/Bendel State and Olympians, Dr. Godwin Obasogie, Charlton Ehizuelen and Dr. Bruce T. Ijirigho, toured the stadium recently, they were full of praises. Notably, Dr. Obasogie said, “If we had this when we were running, most of us could have set world-class records.”
We cannot agree more with these assessments and we thank Governor Obaseki for all his administration has done for sports in Edo State. Importantly, we commend Bendel Insurance who have shown, through their impressive performance so far, that the government’s investments in sports development are not misplaced. We wish them greater success in the days ahead.