After waiting endlessly for 19 years to celebrate the African Cup of Nations, Nigerians can be excused for the outpouring of emotions that greeted the winning of the trophy for the third time in their history.
The last time Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations was in 1994 when Tunisia hosted the tournament. Coincidentally, the Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Keshi and his assistant, Daniel Amokachi, were part of that team.
As soon as the referee blew the final whistle in South Africa, millions of Nigerians went out onto the streets to express their joy and party all night. Momentarily, millions who are reeling in poverty, forgot their woes.
Other IT savvy young Nigerians, desirous of partying all week, invaded Twitter to call for a public holiday. That night #Public Holiday trended on Twitter alongside other trends from the championship!
Though Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, ignored the call for a holiday, he was pictured in London, where he was on official assignment, hoisting his hand in total ecstasy celebrating the triumph of his nation.
In a nation divided by tongues and tribes, football is the only unifying factor that the nation can lay claim to. The victory of the Super Eagles ensures that the nation could come under a unifying factor. There was no religious or political affiliation when the Eagles are flying!
Also, several relatively unknown players from the local league were part of the historic team. No Super Eagles team in recent memory has gone to a major championship like The Africa Cup Of Nations (AFCON) with so many unknown players.
In appreciation of the team’s effort, dollar rain started falling on the players and officials even before they set foot back on Nigeria’s soil. The Chairman of West Africa telecommunication giant, Globacom, gave the team $1m and the coach $200,000, in addition to offering to paythe salary of Chief Coach Stephen Keshi.
Not to be outdone, Forbes Magazine’s richest man in Africa and Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote showered the sum of N130million on the team. He claimed that was part of his Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Also, showing forth is emotion in cash, industrialist, Chief Emeka Offor and former CEO of United Bank for Africa (UBA) both gave the team $500, 000 each.
The president hosted the team in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, two days after the team won the trophy and coach Keshi was awarded N10million, the assistants coaches and the players pocketed N5million each and the technical assistance got N2m.
In the midst of the dollar rain, isn’t it pertinent to ask if some of this money could be channelled towards developing the sport in the country?
Rewarding the team is a great idea, but when the local league is in total shambles and the millions of average Nigerians that are living below a dollar per day are still struggling, will that money not make a great difference?
$1million is enough to kick-start a revolution in grassroots sport in Nigeria. Instead of investing in this area, those donating to the Super Eagles would rather cash in on Nigeria’s ecstatic emotion and get all the media attention.
Investing in grassroots sport is the guaranteed avenue to more trophies in the future. The fact is the present ecstasy may not create the future.
No grassroots sport development, no glory!