Sports

Insurance and Doma: How newcomers stunned NPFL’s big boys

Insurance and Doma: How newcomers stunned NPFL’s big boys
3rd June 2023
INSURANCE AND DOMA
By
Abiodun Adewale

At the beginning of every season in the Nigeria Professional Football League, there are usually favourites for the revered continental positions and the title, and there are also picks for relegation to the second division.

But the abridged 2022/23 season, which has just snowballed into the Super 6 playoffs — that begin on Saturday (today) — which will determine the ultimate winners, has come with some surprises, packages that no one would have expected during the protracted wait for the start of the season.

These surprise packages were boxed in two newly promoted teams Bendel Insurance of Benin and Doma United of Gombe, who defied the odds and took the league by storm to record unprecedented feats in the topflight as well as in their histories. The Benin Arsenal ended the 18-game regular season unbeaten and top of the table from start to finish, while the Savannah Tigers came within points of picking a Super 6 ticket, until their chances were blown by a match-day 18 defeat to Abia Warriors.
As much as government clubs are naturally expected to thrive in the NPFL, that is also determined by how financially buoyant the state is, and that is one of the secrets of Bendel Insurance’s unbeaten run in the regular season.

As an NNL club, Insurance had set a standard by securing a partnership with a new generation bank and also capped the wages of their players in tandem with their counterparts in the NPFL. With that in place, it was not surprising to see them gain promotion to the NPFL, winning the second-tier title as well, last season.

Having featured in the abridged league in 2019, when they were relegated back to the NNL, Insurance’s fate was perfectly poised for struggle, as they found themselves in a tough Group A, which had the likes of Enyimba, Akwa United, Remo Stars, 3SC who won the pre-season tournament, Plateau United and even Kwara United.
Insurance and Doma: How newcomers stunned NPFL’s big boys
3rd June 2023
INSURANCE AND DOMA
By
Abiodun Adewale

At the beginning of every season in the Nigeria Professional Football League, there are usually favourites for the revered continental positions and the title, and there are also picks for relegation to the second division.

But the abridged 2022/23 season, which has just snowballed into the Super 6 playoffs — that begin on Saturday (today) — which will determine the ultimate winners, has come with some surprises, packages that no one would have expected during the protracted wait for the start of the season.

These surprise packages were boxed in two newly promoted teams Bendel Insurance of Benin and Doma United of Gombe, who defied the odds and took the league by storm to record unprecedented feats in the topflight as well as in their histories. The Benin Arsenal ended the 18-game regular season unbeaten and top of the table from start to finish, while the Savannah Tigers came within points of picking a Super 6 ticket, until their chances were blown by a match-day 18 defeat to Abia Warriors.

Bendel Insurance the ‘Invincibles’

logo
No content available in your location
CLAIM OFFER
No content available in your location
As much as government clubs are naturally expected to thrive in the NPFL, that is also determined by how financially buoyant the state is, and that is one of the secrets of Bendel Insurance’s unbeaten run in the regular season.

As an NNL club, Insurance had set a standard by securing a partnership with a new generation bank and also capped the wages of their players in tandem with their counterparts in the NPFL. With that in place, it was not surprising to see them gain promotion to the NPFL, winning the second-tier title as well, last season.

Having featured in the abridged league in 2019, when they were relegated back to the NNL, Insurance’s fate was perfectly poised for struggle, as they found themselves in a tough Group A, which had the likes of Enyimba, Akwa United, Remo Stars, 3SC who won the pre-season tournament, Plateau United and even Kwara United.

To the surprise of everyone, their first game was a 2-0 away win over Akwa United in Uyo — a shock opening week result and that wasn’t the end of their surprise package in the league.

Five months after the win, the Benin Arsenal have proved doubters wrong by finishing the regular season unbeaten, an unprecedented achievement in the NPFL.

Also, they didn’t relinquish the top position in the group from match-day one to 18. They finished with 34 points from eight wins and 10 draws. The Benin Arsenal also conceded the least number of goals — 11 — while their long-serving goalkeeper and vice-captain, Amas Obasogie, kept eight clean sheets – the joint highest in the campaign.

“It wasn’t an easy season but we pulled through as a bunch. We have a wonderful coach and excellent backroom staff. The management was always there for us as well and the hard work everyone put in has paid off,” Obasogie told our correspondent.

“I believe our first game helped us so much, so we gained momentum instantly and kept the belief until the end.”

Aside from Obasogie, striker, Osarenkhoe Imade, a graduate of Petroleum Engineering from the University of Benin, emerged as one of the breakout stars of the season. At the end of the regular season, he was third on the scorers chart with eight goals and could add more during the Super 6.

Beyond the players, the technical crew headed by Monday Odigie did enough to sustain the intensity of the team. In every of their games watched by our correspondent, their tactics were characterised by picking their moments.

Even when their Super 6 spot was looking certain, Odigie wasn’t carried away.

“We will take every game as they come,” was his response anytime he was quizzed about their excellent run.

“The management most definitely is the foundation on which the players are building on. Also, the coaching crew have been awesome, they give the right tactical formation, they imbibe discipline in the team and make it like a family for everyone to feel at home. These are what we the players rode on to this stage,” defender Benjamin Tanimu told our correspondent.

From the onset, Insurance didn’t lack anything and even frequently made away trips by air – something most clubs have found difficult to start or sustain.

“When we started the season, the Edo Deputy Governor (Philip Shaibu) gave us a charge of getting a continental ticket. He didn’t only task the team, he also ensured that every necessary motivation, including salaries, bonuses and even kits were in place. Any away match that is over five hours, we travel by air and that helps to preserve the players,” former Senior Special Assistant to the Edo State Governor on Sports, Sixtus Omokhagbo, said.

In a league where most clubs care less about landmarks, Insurance didn’t take their foot off the gas, not even when they had qualified for the Super 6 with two games to spare. Their ambition continues in the Super 6 where the continental tickets and title is up for grabs. Perhaps, the Benin Arsenal can replicate the 2003/04 ‘Invincibles’ feat of English club, Arsenal, but they will have to battle it out against champions Rivers United, two-time African champions Enyimba, fierce rivals Remo Stars, Lobi Stars and Sunshine Stars in Lagos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *