Super Eagles may have lost a final place ticket to the Black Stars of Ghana at the African Nations Championship but they did not lose the economic game as they were still paid fully.
The Minister of Sports Mallam Bolaji Abdulahi on Thursday morning met with the players at their President Hotel and Conference Centre in Bloemfontein. At the meeting he redeemed the pledge of $100,000 the sports ministry made to the team for defeating Morocco in the quarter finals and another $100,000 for the semi-final match against Ghana which they lost 4-1 after penalty shootout.
The minister made the pledge basically to serve as a match-win bonus.
A person who was at the meeting said that, “Abdullahi hailed the resilience of the Eagles while declaring that Nigerians from President Goodluck Jonathan to the common man on the streets appreciate the team.”
The minister met them in company with the Nigeria Football Federation president Alhaji Aminu Maigari and some of his board members. He also urged the team to win the third place match against Zimbabwe on Saturday.
In Lagos former internationals Emeka Ezeugo and Friday Ekpo applauded the players despite the team’s failure to reach the final game. Both former players, who have now turned coaches, said in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Thursday that the team’s defeat to Ghana had taken nothing away from their quality with regard to African football.
Ezeugo, who now coaches Abia Warriors, told our correspondent on the telephone that Nigeria did better than expected of them at the tournament.
He said, “I don’t think Ghana have the edge over us in African football; we’re the African champions in AFCON, and that’s a bigger competition than this. Ghana was there at the tournament but they didn’t win.
“The Super Eagles performed well at the CHAN, it’s just that sometime you win some and lose some. Nobody gave them the chance of getting to this stage, but they fought hard.”
The former defender added that the competition had churn up new discoveries for coach Stephen Keshi, who would be looking forward to bolster his squad ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.
Ekpo agreed with Ezeugo on the new discoveries, saying that up to seven players, which he would not name, had the quality to play in the first team at the World Cup.
“The team didn’t do badly against Ghana; it was just one of those days the game wouldn’t go their way,” the former midfielder said. However, I would have expected the midfielders to be more creative and take the game beyond just adhering to the coach’s instruction.”
Both former players are confident that the Eagles would get over the defeat and bounce back to beat Zimbabwe in the third-place match on Saturday.