Posted by Nelson Dafe, Benin City | 6 April 2013 | 4,872 times
Twenty years ago, Insurance FC of Benin City was the pride of Nigeria after conquering Africa by winning the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Cup competition. Today they are, to put it at its mildest, far from the force they once were. Having been relegated to the lower echelon (Division 1) of Nigerian football league seasons ago, they have been engaged in a struggle to get back to the elite cadre.
The man that has been given the task of leading the team, as coach, this season is former Super Eagles assistant coach, Lawrence Akpokona. He was in charge of the team during the CAF Cup triumph two decades ago. News Express caught up with him at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium recently, after a training session with his team. Akpokona believes it is not impossible to reach the heights of 1993, but suggests that it is a very difficult assignment.
“I think Insurance can get back to being the force they once were if everyone concerned about this team continues to give their best for the success of the team,” Akpokona said.
If there’s one recurring theme about Insurance in recent years, it is how poorly they have been funded. Players are owed salaries for months without concrete prospects of getting their pay. Sources told News Express that the morale of the players is at low ebb at the moment because of their not having received several months pay. Akpokona made a subtle, but telling appeal, when he said that the mental aspect of the players’ game is of more concern to him presently because they cannot continue to play well when they are emotionally at a low level.
Many people feel that the Edo State Government can do more to improve the fortunes of Insurance. For others, the government simply must do more to salvage one of the most well known institutions of the state.
The Division One League table shows Insurance hovering in the middle of the rankings. However, watching them play at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium recently, there is a widespread belief in the approach of the coaches. With one time legendary goalkeeper of the club, Haruna Wahab, and former Super Eagles player, and also an old boy of the team, Baldwin Bazuaye assisting Akpokona, Insurance are getting back that luminous style of play that made them a feared side in the times past.
“Though there is a difference in class between the boys of ’93 and the one we have now, we are confident that the present crop can be molded into a great side,” Akpokona explained.
Perhaps with some considerable financial push from the Edo State Government, led by the indefatigable governor, Adams Oshiomhole, not just Edo State, but Nigeria will have the chance of seeing Akpokona build a team that would again bring pride and smile to people’s faces. For now though, the club continues to defy death, but groan under stifling financial strains.
•Photo shows Akpokona.
No comments yet. Be the first to post comment.