Bendel Insurance target continental ticket
• Yusuf Alli praises Shaibu for support
Bendel Insurance FC of Benin is eyeing a continental ticket this season, if a declaration by the chairman of Edo Sports Commission, Yusuf Alli, is anything to go by.
The Benin Arsenal, as the club is fondly called, gained promotion to the elite league this year.
The club was later crowned champions of the Nigeria National League (NNL) during the Super 4 contest, where it finished with seven points from three matches ahead of Bayelsa United, El Kanemi Warriors and Doma United.
The team will begin its battle in the abridged league against former champions, Akwa United FC of Uyo, in what has been tagged the star match of the opening fixtures of the 2022/23 Nigeria Professional Football League on January 8.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday Alli, a former national and African long jump champion stated that the club’s target in the NPFL this season is to secure a continental ticket.
“Bendel Insurance is ready, and we are going to make a bold statement in the NPFL this season,” Alli said. “Everybody in Edo State worked so hard for the club to get promoted to the elite league, and I must commend the role of the Deputy Governor, Phillip Shaibu, for his morale and financial support to the club.
“The return of Bendel Insurance to the top league means a lot for the government and people of Edo State. From January 8, 2023, when the NPFL will officially begin, business activities in and around the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City will increase. The people of Edo love football, and Bendel Insurance will prove once again that it remains the pride of Nigerian football. We are ready for the challenges ahead,” Alli, a three-time Olympian, stated.
The Guardian recalls that at the end of the 2007–08 season, Bendel Insurance, which was one of the founding members of the Nigerian Premier League in 1972, suffered a major setback due to managerial crisis, when it was relegated from the top level to the lower division, the first in the club’s history. The club fought its way back to the elite division a few years later, and in 2019, Bendel Insurance, alongside El-Kanemi Warriors, Kwara United, Gombe United, Niger Tornadoes and Yobe Stars were relegated from the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Meanwhile, in the draws conducted in Abuja by the league organisers, the Interim Management Committee (IMC), on Wednesday, the 20 teams were divided into two groups.
In Group A, Kwara United will tango Gombe United. Remo Stars will confront newcomers Elkanemi Warriors at home, while former champions Enyimba FC will be guest of Nasarawa United.
In Jos, Plateau United will welcome Shooting Stars of Ibadan in another interesting encounter.
In Group B, it will be oriental derby as Rangers International go for Abia Warriors jugular. Defending champions, Rivers United and Lobi Stars will face off in Port Harcourt, just as Doma United and Sunshine will trade tackles in Gombe. Bayelsa United will face Dakkada in the last match of the group.