President Bola Tinubu on Tuesday honoured each player and official of the Nigerian Super Eagles with the Member of The Order of The Niger national award for securing the silver medal at the just-concluded 2023 Africa Nations Cup.

The Eagles, three-time African champions, lost the AFCON final 2-1 to hosts Ivory Coast in Abidjan on Sunday.

The President also announced the donation of a flat and a plot of land to each of them even as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, immediately distributed forms for land allocation to each player at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

“‘It is not easy to absorb a loss, particularly when the expectations are high. But you have demonstrated sportsmanship, resilience and team spirit throughout the tournament,” Tinubu said, as he decorated each team member with the MON lapel pins at a reception at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

Tinubu acknowledged the team’s role in fostering unity within the country through their remarkable performance and, despite finishing second, urged them to hold their heads high.

He emphasised the pride Nigerians felt in the Super Eagles’ remarkable journey throughout the competition, saying, “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…you have done a great job, and I am very proud of you.”

President Tinubu pledged to continue investing in sports and youth development, affirming, “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.”

On his part, the Minister of Sports Development, John Enoh, lauded the President for 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,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the team, Eagles 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,” the Vice-Captain said.

Super Eagles coach, Jose Peseiro, said in his 60 years alive, Tinubu was the first President to host him.

While expressing his appreciation to Nigeria’s President, he Portuguese football manager said, “First of all I like to say thank you to the President. I am 60 years old, this is the first time some president has invited me to his house.

“It is an honour and a pride to me and I thank the President of the Republic of Nigeria for the invitation to me.”

Meanwhile, Tinubu’s gesture was, however, greeted with mixed reactions from Nigerians. While a section of social media users commended Tinubu, others lashed out at the President.

Ashabul_Jannaah wrote, “Wow, that’s absolutely massive and amazing!

“President Tinubu’s gesture of gratitude towards the Super Eagles is truly commendable. This will surely motivate them even more to bring pride and glory to Nigeria!”

 However, another section of Nigerians shared different opinion online.

Dr. Saint Dikachi tweeted, “It’s not bad to appreciate them after paying them for the matches including bonuses but why can’t we do the same to lecturers or our civil servants who are the engines of our economy and productive sectors? Minimum wage is low.”

Chief Omoteniola questioned the rationale behind the gesture.

“We channel our problems to things that are not necessary. These guys got $30k each just for a month’s tournament and still come with all these benefits. Tomorrow we complain the police are extorting us. Members of the armed forces sleep in bushes day in and day out no government official ever visited them to give them morals or gift them to motivate them.”

E.J Enwagboso added, “I think gifting players all these are too much. They play for the country in the same manner that other Nigerians work for Nigeria. As a matter of fact, public servants get very little over the 30 – 35 years they serve the country than what the footballers get.”