PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan had planned to reward members of the Flying Eagles with millions of naira and some material gifts if they had won the 2011 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Colombia, a source at the Presidency has revealed to The Moment.
President Jonathan, it was learned, had planned to host the Nigerian representatives on their arrival from Colombia, and both the players and their technical crew would have been given millions of naira, cars, and houses in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and honour with a Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) awards for their victory.
Prior to Nigeria's clash with France in the quarter-final of the competition, Jonathan, who spoke via the telephone with each member of the team in order to boost their morale ahead of the encounter, promised to be physically present in the South American country on the day of the final with a juicy package for them. But he did not reveal the contents of the promised package.
As it turned out, the Nigerian representatives failed to repeat the sterling performance, which saw them maul Guatemala, Croatia and Saudi Arabia in the group stage as well as England in the round of 16, in the quarter-final. They lost 3-2 to France.
The source at the Presidency who pleaded for anonymity, said that Jonathan had wanted to use the Obuh-led Flying Eagles as a spring board to launch his administration's strong commitment to rewarding excellent performance in sports to encourage the nation's youths to pursue excellence.
'It is sad that those boys put up a very disappointing performance, when everybody had thought they would defeat France, make it to the final and bring the world cup to Nigeria. In fact, the president was so much interested in those boys to the extent that he had to reschedule meetings he supposed to have with some important dignitaries that came to the Villa on that day so that he could watch the match,' the source revealed.
Indeed, expectations were high that the Flying Eagles, who had twice played in the final of the tournament, but failed to win the trophy, would break the jinx in Colombia.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) spokesman, Demola Olajire, has said that members of the Flying Eagles would not get more than the bonuses paid to them while on duty in Colombia.
'For now there is no plan on ground for any special reception for the team on the part of NFF, though some corporate bodies have been hosting them courtesy of the federation's arrangement. The federation did everything it could to prepare the boys adequately for the championship and enhanced the winning bonus at every stage, but the boys failed to summon that extra energy and invention needed to reciprocate the good gesture extended to them before they crashed out in the quarter-final,' Olajire said.