By ‘Lanre Owolabi
“He beats his man with relative ease, dashes forward with panache, and sends the ball into the roof of the net with power and purpose. The pacy attacker from Ekiti, Tolulope Ojo is clutch for the Benin Arsenal to give them a deserved lead, the fans in the traditional stadium are singing his name, what a player!”
That was my description of Tolulope Ojo’s goal in the first half of the game against Goddosky on the 22nd of May, 2021 in the Nigeria National League, NNL Group B2 encounter at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium; Benin City.
While he does his job to torment defenders, score goals and also create for his teammates, he is not the only son of the land of honor within the ranks of Bendel Insurance FC, there is Ado Ekiti born Jelili Afisu, who equally delivers effective performances with his good tackling ability and sound positional awareness of a modern-day full-back whenever he is called upon.
Almost leading Insurance, as fondly called, back to Nigeria top tier football as key members, the breakthrough for this starlets began two years ago with assured displays for Ekiti United FC in an FA CUP match against their present team in Lokoja, Kogi State.
There; 9 games ended 4:2 in favor of Bendel Insurance FC, though none of the boys scored any of the goals, they made a mark on the opponents, the next season, they will be turning out in the yellow and green jerseys of the Edo State government-sponsored team.
Tolu ‘Lopez’ Ojo is a youngster who was scouted at a secondary school football competition in 2014 when he featured for the Oye LG team, while Coach Ademola Agbana who was the Head Coach of Ekiti United FC at the match versus insurance, nurtured the young Jelili from the age of 8, after discovering the talented footballer from Emmanuel School, Ado Ekiti.
Both 18years old, they are only just getting started. Worthy of note, their exploits for Ekiti United FC was the stepping stone to the level they have attained in their career. A platform for the career growth of Ekiti sons is one of many potentials of the state-owned Ekiti United Football Club.
Deservedly, Ekiti United FC made history last football season, sealing a landmark spot in the Super 8 of the NNL, this brought the team agonizingly close to playing amongst the very best teams in Nigeria football.
While the team labored through financial difficulties through the regular season to attain the feat, projections have it that they could have done better in the grand scheme of things. The poor relationship of the management of the team with the State Football Association is well documented.
They relegated the importance of the State FA when it should have been the backbone, considering how football is run in Nigeria.
In their own magnanimity, the state government and generous Ekiti indigenes made financial commitments to the team, albeit, a holistic consideration of Ekiti United FC tells a story of a darling son whose productivity falls short of the resources devoted.
As we look to the future, for our flagship team, all stakeholders in the Ekiti Football ecosystem must take cognizance of how important Ekiti United FC is for the career growth of the many talents that abound in the state, as well as, the fact that the club amplifies all that is done not only within the football ecosystem but the whole sports ecosystem in Ekiti State.