Tinubu confers national honour of MON on Super Eagles players, officials

President Bola Tinubu joined by Vice President Kashim Shettima, warmly received the Super Eagles players and officials at the statehouse, Abuja, on Tuesday, February 13, 2024

By Marvellous Nyang

President Bola Tinubu has conferred the national honour of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) on members of the Super Eagles, their officials and others from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

The President gave them the honour for their brilliant performance that fetched them a second position winner a silver medal at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament.

He announced the conferment of the national honour and other gifts to them at an event organised for the team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday, February 13, 2024.

At the finals played on Sunday, in Abidjan, the Super Eagles lost 1-2 to the Elephants, after they remained undefeated all through their previous matches.

The Super Eagles coach, Jose Peseiro, expressed delight at meeting the President for the first time, saying, “I like to say thank you to the President. I am 60 years old, and this is the first time the president has invited me to his house.”

The Portuguese coach, who regretted their loss at the finals said, it would have been better if his team had won the trophy.

According to him, “Of course, I would have liked to bring the cup to the Nigerian people. I’m sad about that. But of course, I’m happy because I think we did a fantastic job. In the final, I think we felt that atmosphere.”

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Also speaking, the NFF President, Ibrahim Gusau, who showed his appreciation for the national honour, said, “This is a great day for all of us; you can see how the President received the team, and we are highly elated to say that we have been honoured with MON, to all our entire team, including me and my general secretary.

“That is a great thing that has happened to this country. That shows that Nigerians are really happy, especially the President.

“We thank God for the support given to this team, and by the grace of God, we will continue to do our best to ensure that we make Nigerians happy through football.”

Also, the team’s lead attacker, Victor Osimhen, spoke against the unfortunate cyberbullying of Alex Iwobi, which the captain, Ahmed Musa, had earlier on Monday addressed expressly.

He condemned the attack even as the 2026 World Cup qualifiers continuing matches continue in June.

Osimhen said, “I urge Nigerians that cyberbullying is bad because we are also humans. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we have a good game, and we will get the hype. But of course, when you criticise, you have to be constructive when doing this type of thing.

“I think, to be fair, what they have done to Alex is out of this world and not good. They should also look at his mental health because there are some of us who can take this to heart and then keep on grinding. And there are some of us that it gets to our heads, and we will lose focus, and we will lose form. So I think we are rallying around him. We have spoken to him individually and collectively.”

Speaking on the team’s preparation for the 2026 World Cup, Osimhen said, “Now we have to go back to our clubs to keep up the good work, and hopefully we get called up by our national team and give our all also. But of course, the goal is to get the ticket to the World Cup, and I think we have the team and the squad to achieve this.”

Meanwhile, all of the gifts presented to the team and officials are in addition to the usual prize money doled out by the Africa Cup of Nations, which they say they have boosted by 40% since the last tournament.

This means that winners Ivory Coast get $7m, runners-up Nigeria get $4m, semi-finalist South Africa and DR Congo each get $2.5m, while the four teams who made the quarter-finals take home $1.3m each.

This year’s Africa Cup of Nations enjoyed the highest viewing numbers in its 67-year history – thanks to bigger broadcasting and commercial deals, and social media buzz. Almost two billion people are said to have watched worldwide.

Analysts hope the global appreciation for Africa’s footballing flair will translate into more starting slots for African teams at future World Cups.

As it stands, Africa has only nine World Cup spots to Europe’s 13, despite the fact these two continents have a near-identical number of Fifa-affiliated countries.

African national teams have in the past complained their salaries and bonuses have not been paid.

The Cameroon side who won global admiration for their quarter-final performance against England in the 1990 World Cup waited over 30 years to get the houses they were promised, by which time their captain had died.

At last year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup, South African footballers won a pay dispute after sitting out a match in protest. Their hastily assembled substitutes had included a 13-year-old girl.