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By Peter Edema (Lagos), Chesa Chesa and Rotimi Akinwumi (Abuja)
Still basking in the euphoria of Super Eagles Nations Cup victory in South Africa, President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday announced a N5 million donation to the team’s Supporters Club.
The President said he forgot to announce the donation the night before when he splashed National Honours, land and cash rewards on the players and technical crew.
At the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the Aso Rock Villa, the President said the Supporters Club needed to be recognised for encouraging the Super Eagles to achieve the feat.
Jonathan also charged the team, Federal Ministry of Sports and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to ensure Nigeria goes to the World Cup next year.
“I want to thank the Minister of Sports and of course, the NFF which has always been associated with a lot of stories for this feat. If you had lost, you would have been humiliated.
“I know that it is challenging to manage a team. We will continue to praise and encourage the boys and charge them to ensure they qualify for the World Cup and get to the final.
“We also commend the Supporters Club. This really escaped me yesterday (on Tuesday) when we were announcing gifts for the players.
“Government will give the club N5 million to encourage them. It is not easy supporting a team, be singing and dancing even when it seems the team is not winning. We need to encourage them,” the President said.
Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, in his remarks, recalled that three weeks ago, he made a presentation to FEC on the team’s preparation and called for their prayers, a request, he said, the President gladly obliged.
“We can conveniently say that God has answered our prayers after 19 years of waiting. With the victory, the mood of the country has changed,” he said.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, in his remarks described football as very crucial to national development, saying the nation stood still for the final match.
Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, said “a combination of patience as exemplified by the First Lady (Patience Jonathan) and the resilience of the President gave us the goodluck we are celebrating. Those were the things that saw Nigeria through this crystal moment.”
Also, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, said with the Super Eagles’ victory, Nigeria has been re-branded among the comity of nations and that the country no longer needs to spend money on external publicity since the match was watched worldwide.
Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, described the victory of the team as fantastic, saying “it signalled an opening up of the sports sector under your (President’s) leadership where we can create jobs through it.”
Also in a joyous mood, the House of Representatives on Wednesday hosted the victorious national football team in plenary and used the occasion to pour encomiums on the players and officials.
Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, at a special session to honour the Super Eagles said their victory marked a new beginning in the history of soccer in the country.
At the event, PresidentGeneral of the Nigerian Football Supporters Club, Rafiu Ladipo, sought the assistance of the House to ensure that other supporting staff of the team as well as the club were rewarded adequately for contributing to the victory.
Tambuwal in his eulogy added: “This Special Session holds today to relish, cherish, celebrate and honour you for this uncommon achievement that no doubt marks a new beginning in the annals of Nigerian soccer and the rebirth of our national pride and global image in this round leather game.”
He described the victory as an achievement that was “uncommon and outstanding on several accounts.”
According to Tambuwal, nobody gave the team any chance prior to the commencement of the competition.
Head coach of the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi, in a remark assured that the team would continue to make the country and Nigerians proud.
He promised that the team would put the interest of the country and Nigerians first in everything they do.
Equally on Wednesday, former Dutch international, Ruud Gullit, condemned the NFF over its desire to hire a foreign coach for the Super Eagles.
Gullit’s reaction is coming on the heels of the Federation’s reported move in South Africa to hire Zambia coach, Harve Renard, to coach the Super Eagles while the tournament was still in progress.
Gullit, who was part of the SuperSport 2013 Africa Cup of Nations analysts was miffed that Nigeria wanted to hire a foreign coach when its nationals are all over the world excelling in the coaching profession.
He expressed his shock in South Africa during his discussion with former Super Eagles captain, Sunday Oliseh, in Johannesburg.
Gullit, according to Oliseh, expressed this view even before Super Eagles defeated Cote d’ Ivoire in the quarterfinals of the Nations Cup.
Oliseh, who revealed this to our correspondent during the third place match between Mali and Ghana which Mali won 3-1, said Gullit was of the view that hiring of foreign coaches was no longer the trend in modern football.
Gullit, Oliseh noted, said for a coach to succeed, he needs to understand the culture of the people, the psychological make of the players and many other factors which would take a foreign coach a long time to grasp.