President Goodluck Jonathan capped off the colourful reception for Super Eagles which arrived Nigeria here on Tuesday, after winning the country’s third Africa Cup of Nations trophy in nearly two decades with rain of cash and encomiums on the team.
First, following the traditions established by his predecessors in office, President Jonathan announced different cash prizes as a reward for the victory of the team in the continental competition with cash prize of N10 million for Stephen Keshi, the coach of the team and N5 million each for his five assistants.
The players will receive N5 million each for bringing the continental cup home.
In addition, the President also announced the conferment of national honours of the soccer players and their coaches. Coach Stephen Keshi was conferred with CON, one of Nigeria’s highest national honours, while his assistants were conferred with Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON.
The 23 players were conferred with national honour of Member, Order of Niger, MON.
But the Federal Government was not done as it also allocated a plot of land to all the players and their coaches in the Federal Capital Territory.
But the President also announced the cash gifts from some giants in business who he said had identified with government in the efforts to reward the Super Eagles for their victory in the African Nations Cup.
This include the $1 million and $200,000 gift from Otunba Mike Adenuga, Chairman, Globacom to the players and Coach Keshi respectively and N100 million gift to the team from foremost industrialist, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
The President also annpounced the gift of $500,000 each for the team from four other businessmen- Chief Emeka Offor, Tony Elumelu, Jim Ovia and Alhaji Samad.
Speaking just before announcing the different gifts, President Jonathan had described the team’s victory in the continental football competition as “awesome victory” for which the team deserves praise.
“In this pre-centenary year, our victory in South Africa is the most precious gift that the Super Eagles have presented to the nation”, the President said.
While describing the failure of Nigeria to qualify for the same competition last year as shameful, the President added that the the victory of the team in the football competition was particularly significant because most people did not give the team made up of local and foreign players any chance of doing well in the competition.
The President who said the team was able to prove the cynics wrong through hard work and determination added that his administration was determined to bring back the glorious days of Nigerian sports.
President Jonathan also assured Coach Stephen Keshi of his full support, adding that “we are here to assist you to achieve even greater success”. The President therefore tasked the Coach to get ready for the qualification matches of the next world cup scheduled for Brazil, adding that Nigeria must be part of the global football fiesta.
Speaking earlier, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the Minister of Sports had described the triumph of Super Eagles in the African Nations Cup competition as a breath of fresh air, coming about two decades after the country last won the cup. He also noted that Coach Keshi has become a legend as he has won the cup as a player and as a coach.
The Minister who noted that the Sports sector is a very complex one however appealed to “all stakeholders in the sector to put all years of acrimony and rancor behind and stop creating crisis where none exist”.
The players presented the cup to President Jonathan during the reception which also featured photographic sessions with the leadership of the National Assembly who were also present at the occasion. Also present at the occasion were some state governors and Nollywood actors and actresses.
The Super Eagles had earlier arrived in Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja on Tuesday afternoon to a warm reception by fans and government officials. Hundreds of school children lined the route from the Airport to the city centre, waving Nigerian flag as they expected the convoy comprising the team to pass bye. A reception was held for the team by the Bala Mohammed, the minister of Federal Capital Territory.