Nigerians roll out a red carpet to celebrate the Super Eagles, who won the African Cup of Nations tournament February 10, while President Goodluck Jonathan splash them awards of cash, land and national honours
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Feb. 25, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE African Cup of Nations, Afcon 2013 might have come and gone but its memories will linger for a while. After a rosy welcome at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and a grand reception by Nigerians at the National Stadium, Abuja, February 12, the victorious Super Eagles of Nigeria were hosted by President Goodluck Jonathan, who awarded them cash, a plot of land each in Abuja and also honoured them with national awards.
According to the president, each player and the team’s three assistant coaches would receive a cash gift of N5m while Stephen Keshi, the head coach, would get N10m. Other members of the technical crew would also get N2m each. Jonathan similarly conferred national honours on the members of the team and their coaches. By that gesture, Keshi was honoured with the Commander of the Order of Niger, CON, while his three assistants and Joseph Yobo, the team’s captain, were conferred with the Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON. The other players were honoured with Member of the Order of Niger, MON.
In his speech, Jonathan commended the team for ignoring criticisms and refusing to surrender by their superlative performance. “The lesson in your victory for all of us is that we should never give up in the midst of criticisms. Believe in yourself. With time, you will see the fruits of your labour,” he said.
Aside the gifts from President Jonathan, other prominent Nigerians in the corporate world donated cash to the team. Mike Adenuga, chairman of Globacom Limited, gave $1m to the players and $200,000, a Range Rover SUV jeep and a Toyota Camry car to Stephen Keshi. Aliko Dangote chairman of Dangote Group donated N5 million to each of the players, while Emeka Ofor, chairman of Chrome Group, Jim Ovia, former managing director of Zenith Bank and Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings donated $500,000 each to the team. Some states in the country like Delta have indicated interest to host the team in the state capitals.
Honour also came to the Super Eagles from the Confederation of African Football, CAF. Accordingly, five members of the all-conquering Super Eagles, namely Vincent Enyeama, Efe Ambrose, John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike, were among the best 11 players who constituted CAF’s ideal team of the tournament.
Apart from Nigerians, the superlative performance of the Super Eagles also excited the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS commission. Kadre Desire Ouedraogo commended the eight national teams from West Africa for proving themselves worthy ambassadors of the community both in character, discipline and sportsmanship, and for winning the top four slots of the 16-nation tournament.
The Super Eagles won the African title after 19 years. They defeated Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso on their way to becoming the champions. The team will now represent Africa at the FIFA Confederation Cup in Brazil. They will take on the champions of other continents in June this year.
It was, indeed, a sweet victory for Keshi and the team who weathered the storms from the NFF, the Nigerian media and the supporters to win the trophy for the third time in the history of its participation in Africa’s biggest football tournament. Before and during the initial stage of the tournament, the Nigerian team was virtually written off, especially by the press. But Keshi was said to have repeatedly told the team that it was the best in the tournament and that the players should not allow themselves to be distracted by negative press reports. He was said to have told them to avoid press interviews, remain focussed and prove their worth in the field of play.
However, the victory celebration was temporarily overshadowed by controversies over the alleged resignation of Keshi. After the story had taken over the regular and social media for more than 24 hours, the presidency stepped in. It was little wonder that Jonathan had to include it in his speech at the reception held for the team at the state house in which he assured Keshi that he would always have his support. Before then, Keshi had, in a statement, given reasons for the resignation and why he had to reconsider his decision.