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IMC’s impact must boost results in CAF competitions

Bendel Insurance recorded an inspiring 2-0 away win over Akwa United in the NPFL opener decided in Uyo, Akwa Ibom recently and we believe that win was a testimony of the new initiatives of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) in charge of the league led by Gbenga Elegbeleye.

The body has been busy of late trying to right the wrongs of the past administrators of the league over various issues affecting the development of domestic football. We are happy that the indemnities of the match officials were paid even before the start of the match, a sharp departure from the past just as all the elite teams were given N10 million as take-off grants with N100 million also waiting for the eventual winner.

The pre-season tournament organised by the IMC and won by Shooting Stars also attracted a reward of N100 million. The decision of Elegbeleye’s team on the abridged format to ensure Nigeria’s league ends at the same time as other leagues in Africa and other parts of the world is good. This will also avoid the embarrassing situation of not being able to produce representatives for CAF competitions when the situation arises. This happened in the Federation Cup last year which ended abruptly in the last eight because of irregularities in the football calendar.

The IMC also stated that any club that is guilty of hooliganism will lose three points straight just as the teams with poor football turfs have been barred to stadia across the country. Here is a good template by the IMC but we insist that the issue of television must also be sorted to ensure the fans can see the domestic stars in action. We also expect that the interesting initiatives of the IMC are templates administrators will continue to embrace especially as the monies for the clubs and even the referees are coming from sponsors.

Things are indeed getting better and all the teams especially the ones in the NPFL will have to buckle up with the current realities to give their best. With the good tidings coming in, we want these to translate into quality play and also better results in the continental matches as well as the African Nations Championship (CHAN) competition. It will also be great to have more players from the domestic league feature for the Super Eagles with the new incentives in the domestic league. Kudos to the Ministry of Sports for its foresight and indeed the IMC.

Over the years, there has been talk about the general operations of the domestic football league in Nigeria as the glamour associated with it in the past has been lost in many areas. The fans are no longer visiting the stadia just as the league has not been on television. The payment of salaries and allowances is also not guaranteed in many of the clubs while the calendar imbalance is another bane. Poor officiating, hooliganism and quality of the pitches are among other issues causing a setback in the league.

Interestingly, a traditional team in the country newly promoted back into the elite cadre, the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), Bendel Insurance, is receiving a big boost from the private sector as Edo State is making a huge statement in the history of the country’s domestic league. On January 11 at the Government House in Edo, the state government revealed two major sponsors for Insurance and Edo Queens just as branded jerseys of the two teams were unveiled at a wellattended colourful ceremony.

The sports-loving Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, explained that the government has reduced its financial expenditure for the two teams to allow private sector’s involvement. This is the way to go. The male team has the backing of Sterling Bank which is also the kits sponsor while Peluliar Ultimate is the same for the ladies, Edo Queens. During the digital and physical unveiling, the traditional Benin Ivory Mask is conspicuous on the jerseys just as some of the players filed out on the red carpet to model the new kits. There were also kits for travelling, training as well as camp wear. The Deputy Governor shocked the audience when he disclosed that the players will wear their jerseys just once and can give it out after every match.

This is strange in the domestic scene just as it was also stated that both the male and female teams receive same bonuses and allowances and they are not being owed till date. Shaibu added: “The two Coaster buses for Bendel Insurance and Edo Queens were bought through the sales of their jerseys. The government is building a new stadium for Bendel Insurance, which will be a source of revenue for the club.”

The move by the Edo State Government in setting a good template for the two teams in the state is highly commendable especially with the involvement of private organisations and also the intention of running the operations of the team with a good welfare package and business oriented officials. We hereby charge other state governments and club administrators to emulate the Edo model for Insurance to boost domestic football in the country. Making an impact in CAF competitions at club and national team levels takes hard work and there must be a deliberate effort to achieve this. The time is now!




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