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Tinubu To Super Eagles: You’ve Proven That Nigeria’s Greatest Strength Lies In Its Diversity

The President promised to attract investors to promote Nigeria’s football league.

President Bola Tinubu has said that the national football team, the Super Eagles, have demonstrated by their team spirit and discipline at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament which just ended in Côte d’Ivoire that diversity is principally a source of strength.

Speaking on Tuesday at a reception in honour of the players at the Council Chambers of the State House in Abuja, the President commended the team for their exemplary display of unity, determination, and resilience on the field. 

He emphasized the pride Nigerians felt in the Super Eagles’ remarkable journey throughout the competition.    

According to President Tinubu: ”It is a great honour for me to receive you, our Super Eagles. As a team, you taught us lessons on resilience, togetherness, diversity, and excitement in competitive games.

”You started the tournament as if Nigeria would not assert itself, but you progressed to the finals. Through all the challenges and dealing with great humidity in the host country, you left your clubs and honoured your country. You gave us great excitement.

”You were determined. We salute your resilience. You lifted our spirits, and you made us proud. You made us smile as Nigerians.

”It is not easy to absorb a loss, particularly when the expectations are high. But you have demonstrated sportsmanship, resilience, and teamship throughout the entire tournament. That is what AFCON stands for, the unity and resilience of the continent. You have done a great job, and I am very proud of you”.

The President pledged to continue investing in sports and youth development, adding: ”We will consult with you on how to facilitate and promote sports development. As your President, I will go out to attract greater private sector investment in the Nigerian Professional Football League. We have to grow our local league, and I promise to be a super promoter of sports in our country. Many of you may in the future become managers of our local premiership system. I want to say once again that I am proud of you, and Nigeria is proud of you. You are a lifter of spirits.”

President Tinubu conferred national honours on each member of the football team, which clinched the silver medal in the competition, and announced the donation of a flat and a plot of land to each of them.

He decorated each member of the team with Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) lapel pins, while the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Chief Nyesom Wike, immediately distributed forms for the allocation of a plot of land to each of the players. 

Earlier in his speech, Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Enoh, applauded the President for prioritizing sports development in the country and ensuring support for the team. 

He lauded the defining decision of creating a separate Ministry of Sports Development. 

”For the first time, we have gone through a major competition; we have come back without any crisis, without any complaint, without any issues whatsoever relating to allowances, bonuses, or whatever. This kept the team focused on the matches in front of them with quality results,” Enoh said. 

Speaking on behalf of the team, the Vice-Captain, William Troost-Ekong promised to work hard to surpass their achievements by winning the gold medal in the next competition.

”We are very grateful for your support during our time in Ivory Coast. We did our best until the final. I wish that we were here carrying the trophy for you. 

”In 2019, I was here with a bronze medal. Now we are here with a silver medal. I have two gold-medal winners beside me here and all we can promise is that we will continue to work hard, and the next time we meet, hopefully next year, we will be bringing home a gold medal,” Troost-Ekong said.

Speaking to newsmen after the presidential hosting, Head Coach of the Super Eagles, Jose Peseiro, has expressed sadness that Nigeria did not win the AFCON tournament, which was concluded in Abdijan, Cote d’Ivoire, last Sunday.

Peseiro, who also expressed excitement over the invitation to the State House by President Tinubu and the honours and gifts that followed, however lauded the performance of the team at the tournament, saying they gave their one hundred percent at the outing.

His words: “First of all, I’ll like to say thank you to the President. I am 60 years old, this is the first time some president invited me to his house. It’s an honour and a pride to me that the President of the Republic of Nigeria for the invitation to come here. Thank you very much.

“About the final, if you ask me, I think we did a fantastic job, our team showed very good spirit and played well. My boys did 100 percent, same for my staff and the NFF was the biggest for us. So you can find my staff also and everybody, thank you to the players. 

“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”.

Also speaking, the Goalkeeper of the national team, Stanley Nwabali, said he will be returning to his South African club side, Chippa United, as he has no reason to fear going back.

Nwabali was reportedly threatened on the social media by some fanatic supporters of the South African national team, Bafana Bafana, for being instrumental to the ouster of their team at the semi-final stage, though he plays for a South African club.

Nwabali stopped two penalty kicks by Bafana Bafana players in the decider penalty stage, during the Nigerian – South African semi-final match at the Stade de la Paix, in Bouake. 

Asked if he would be returning to Chippa United, Nwabali said “Definitely, I must go back to my club, but talking about the threat, this is football, you can’t threaten someone because they also won some other teams too. How about if those they beat decided to be keep threatening your players? It doesn’t make sense. It’s football, I don’t think there’s anything attached to it. Maybe it was just someone writing on social media.

“But it’s cool to me because I spoke to my chairman like three days ago, but he didn’t say anything like all those stuffs. So he felt like ‘no, it’s cool, you can come back. Definitely I must go back to my club because they owe me”, he said.

On their part, Super Eagles Captain, Ahmed Musa and the African footballer of the year, Victor Osimhen, condemned the social media attack against Alex Iwobi, saying people should not forget the useful contributions of the player to the team.

Musa said if there should be any blame at all, it should go to the entire team instead of singling out one person.

Answering reporters questions on the social media attack against Iwobi, Musa said, “We know that we are very disappointed with the result but there’s nothing we can do about this. That’s what happens in football. So now we have to go back and work ahead for the next AFCON and we have some more couple of games for the World Cup qualifiers so that is more important. 

“We really appreciate all Nigerians for the massive support that they gave to us. It’s not that easy. We know everyone wants the cup but that is what Allah decided that is going to happen. 

“Yeah, for our colleagues, I don’t think he deserves what is he getting now because I think we have done our nation proud. So we think everyone has to be proud each and everyone of us. But we saw on the social media, if you want to attack this just attack all the team, not individual players.

“So it’s not everyone that has that mindset. We are humans. There’s nothing we can do we made a mistake but when something like this happens, we have to come together as a team and appreciate one another.

“There is a lot of lessons we are thinking and we were hoping that we would win the cup but at the end of 95 minutes, we lost the game, that it’s a big lesson that we have to go back and look into it.”

On his part, African Footballer of the year, Victor Osimhen said, “Unfortunately, there has been an incidence with Alex Iwobi and Captain Musa had to do a long thread which we saw almost all of you reposting,what is the message Nigerians as it concerns cyber bullying and what just happens? 

“It is really sad but happening for the past two weeks now. Some of our fans in Africa just as it has been said… but of course you will see there is a big solidarity in the team. And I urge Nigerians that cyber bullying is…because we are also human. 

“Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we have a good game, and we’ll get the hype. But of course, when you criticize you have to be constructive when doing this type of things. I think to be fair, what they have done to Alex is out of this world, it’s not good. 

“They should also look at his mental health because there are some of us that can take this to heart and then keep on grinding. And there are some of us that he still gets to go ahead and they will lose focus and we lose form. 

“So I think we are rally around him, we have spoken to him individually and collectively. So I think he’s a strong dude and is ready to continue to to give his all for his nation.”

On his readiness for the World Cup qualifiers, the Napoli attacker said, “We already. I think now we just finished a tournament that is one of the most hardest we have played in since I started my career. 

“And 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 we have squad to achieve this.”

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

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