EDO STATE SPORTS: THE RISE AND FALL SINCE 2008, BY DARLINTON OKPEBHOLO RAY
As one of the major top sports administrators and managers in Edo state between 2005 and 2010, I was abreast with the events that led to the demotion of Bendel Insurance football club of Benin, in 2008. It was mainly the ownership tussle between the government of Prof. Osunbor as it were and the then chairman Chief Ikhosuehi.
Many matches were missed and the club got automatic relegation to the lower division. One can also recall the massive Jubilation and excitement that filled the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium the day this government of Oshiomole came on board. They had great expectations, especially with the promises made to them during the litigation era. But they never got all they were promised.
Today, Bendel Insurance which used to be the pride of all Edo sports enthusiasts remain in the lower division even after 8 years. The players are not motivated, they do not get what other players from other clubs get, they play league without winning bonuses (even if they win away) , they live only on salaries just as civil servants. Sadly, Bendel Insurance football club of Benin, still uses the same bus bought for them by Lucky Igbinedion since the year 2000 and the bus today is just a walking shadow keeping players stranded on the road for hours, thereby making them arrive match venues late most times or worked out.
They go for away matches on match days most times without encouragement whatsoever from the governor and this year, they missed being promoted with just 3 points and the slot was won by a “church club” in Lagos, MFM FC. What a pity! What has happened? Why has sports been completely abandoned in Edo state since 2008? Between 2000 and 2006 in sports festivals, Edo state was always coming up between 1st and 2nd, Athletes were fighting to represent Edo State because of incentives, young promising athletes from Bayelsa, Ogun, Osun, Enugu, etc were finding their ways to Edo state, changing their states allegiance to Edo.
One could also recall the then governor, lucky Igbinedion, always in the stadium watching football games and monitoring athletes. All these are gone like a “candle in the wind”. What went wrong? Why is Bendel Insurance still in the lower division 8 years after? These and many more are what Dr Solomon Iyobosa Edebiri has promised to address once he is voted into office in 2016.
Being a man who had in past taken up the responsibility of sponsoring sports in Edo state between 2000 and 2005, he has a first hand knowledge of the crisis that has bedeviled sports in the state and he was quoted to have said recently in a youths forum that developing sports and empowering youths in the state would be top in his agenda.
” As someone who has been in the system, I think what we need in sport is a holistic approach, which of course must be sincere, for the sake of our youths and their future. The future is actually between you and me. We will decide it. We will sit down with the best sports stakeholders in the world , I will present my plans for sports, they will bring theirs and then we create a synergy. I have my blue print on sports in Edo State. We must redeem sports in the state. We will shock the world when we begin” Dr Solomon I. Edebiri concluded.