It was jubilation all over Benin City, Nigeria, on Wednesday as their darling club, Bendel Insurance FC finally returned into the fixtures of the Nigeria Professional Professional League (NPFL) scheduled to kick off the 2019 season on January 13 across various centres in the country.
Insurance which won the league in 1973 and 1979 with several victories in the FA, now AITEO Cup, and was a hunting ground for the Nigeria senior national team in its hay days had been on relegation for over a decade, but finally emerged among the four teams in the just concluded Bet9ja Nigeria National League Super 8 promoted into the elite division.
With renewed support by the Edo State Government, coach of the side, Monday Odigie who was assistant to Samson Siasia at both the Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games at which the Nigeria Dream won silver and bronze, respectively, had assured fans on the target of bringing the team back to the top flight.
The other promoted clubs are Remo Stars of Sagamu, Gombe United and Kada City FC of Kaduna.
In the mini-draw supervised by the LMC Chief Executive Officer, Hon. Nduka Irabor in Aba after the play-offs, Insurance took slot 1, Remo Stars in 2 while Gombe United and Kada City were in 3 and 4, respectively.
The mini-draw thus pitched Wikki Tourists against Insurance, Rivers United and Remo Stars, Yobe Desert Stars and Gombe United and Go Round FC to play Kada City.
However, some of the opening day matches would not hold as scheduled and are to be rescheduled for a later date. The postponed fixtures are those involving the country’s representatives in CAF Club competitions and those involving the four promoted clubs from the NNL.
Salihu Abubakar, the Chief Operating Officer of the League Management Company (LMC) announced the decision of the League body to shift the matches, explaining that, “the games involving the promoted clubs from the NNL are being shifted to give the club’s time to return to their respective bases and make adequate plans to play in the NPFL”.
“It’s only fair that the players be allowed time to recover from the rigours of the tournament they just participated in and they would join from Match Day 2 while a new date will be announced for the postponed fixtures”, added Abubakar.
The other postponed games are those between Lobi Stars and Katsina United and between Rangers International and Niger Tornadoes. While Lobi are playing in the CAF Champions League, Rangers are campaigning in the CAF Confederation Cup and both clubs are in action this weekend.
The Opening Day Fixtures
Wikki Tourists vs Insurance (pp)
Rivers United vs Remo Stars (pp)
Rangers Int’l vs Niger Tornadoes (pp)
Lobi Stars vs Katsina United (pp)
Kwara United vs Sunshine Stars
Enyimba vs MFM FC
Yobe Desert Stars vs Gombe United (pp)
Go Round vs Kada City (pp)
Nasarawa United vs Abia Warriors
Plateau United vs FC Ifeanyiubah
Kano Pillars vs Heartland
Akwa United vs El-Kanemi Warriors
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