My NPFL performance earned me Eagles invite — Tanimu


By: Abiodun Adewale

Newly invited Super Eagles defender, Benjamin Tanimu, has admitted his one-and-half season in the Nigeria Premier Football League paved the way for his first invitation into the men’s senior national team ahead of the upcoming friendlies against Ghana and Mali in Morocco, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

Tanimu and Luton Town defender Gabriel Osho are the two new players in the 27-man squad which has eight other defenders, as Nigeria face Ghana on Friday March 22 and Mali four days later at the same venue.

Six weeks after leaving NPFL side Bendel Insurance for Ihefu Sports Club in Tanzania, the 21-year-old is now looking forward to his Super Eagles debut while many are digging his profile, likening the invitation to that of new Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali, who was also invited for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast, just over a year after moving to Chippa United in South Africa.

In an exclusive chat with PUNCH Sports Extra, Tanimu believes his invitation was fueled by his performance for Bendel Insurance in the league.

Six games here (Tanzania) aren’t enough to earn me a national team call up. The technical department must have been watching me from the NPFL and also the time I was in the U-23 — it all started from the NPFL,” Tanimu told PUNCH Sports Extra.

“Playing in the NPFL is no joke as it is highly tasking and requires you to be on top of your mental game at all times. At Bendel Insurance, our first season in the NPFL after gaining promotion definitely brought a lot of attention to many of us and being consistent playing in the league opened the way.

“We set an unbeaten record of 21 games in the league and everyone had their eyes on us. The league is without a doubt one of the best in Africa and I thank the NPFL board and the NFF for improving the league and giving me the opportunity for the world to see what NPFL players are made of,,” the defender said.

Last September, he was rumoured to have joined a fourth-tier Spanish club Lleida Esportiu but he was quick to debunk the move.

“I was surprised when I saw the news too. I wasn’t even interested in leaving the NPFL to go and play in the fourth division. When the Tanzania offer came, it was well calculated and I left as I should, not like the other one that I was rumoured to have dumped Insurance, a club that made me,” he said.

Tanimu was part of the Bendel Insurance team that gained promotion back to the NPFL in 2022 and they took the league by storm in 2023, setting an unprecedented 21-game unbeaten record in the league and also won the Federation Cup title for Insurance – their first in 43 years.

Before moving to Tanzania, the centre back featured in all Insurance 19 games in the first stanza of the 2023/24 season and scored two goals.

At Ihefu SC in the Tanzania topflight, Tanimu made his debut in a 3-2 away win over Mtibwa Sugar February 12 and they followed it up with another 2-1 away win over Geita Gold February 1. In six matches, he has helped the club win three, while they have lost two and drew one in the process.

“I’m settling well in the league here as well. Making my debut in an away game was not easy but it helped me prepare for what is ahead. Since then we have been getting some desired results and we hope to continue,” he told PUNCH Sports Extra.

If he gets some minutes against Ghana March 22, it will coincide with his debut for the Nigeria U-23 team, where he featured in the qualifiers for the African U-23 Nations Cup which was supposed to be a qualifying tournament for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The team, however, did not qualify for the tournament, losing 2-0 on aggregate to Guinea after playing out a goalless draw in Abuja.