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Honours for heroic Eagles

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AN army of soccer fans struggling to touch the boys; excited school pupils waving the national flag and scores of sweating drummers and dancers – the Super Eagles arrived to a tumultuous welcome in Abuja yesterday.

President Goodluck Jonathan last night hosted the team to a lavish reception at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

At the colourful ceremony were senior government officials, including Vice President Namadi Sambo, members of the National Assembly, governors and other dignitaries.

The President honoured members of the team with cash gifts, national honours and land in Abuja.

The team’s coach, Stephen Keshi, got the Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) and N10million. The assistant coaches – Daniel Amokachi, Sylvanus Okpala and Ike Shorunmu – and the team’s captain, Joseph Yobo, got the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) and N5m.

Other members of the team got Member of the Order of Niger (MON) and N5 million each.

Members of the technical crew got N2m and MON. Every member of the team got a plot of land in Abuja, in addition.

The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was jammed by fans.

Airport workers stayed off their duty posts momentarily to catch a glimpse of the boys, whose Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) victory in South Africa on Sunday threw the entire country into exhilaration. The Super Eagles beat the Stallions of Burkina Faso 1-0.

The players and officials arrived in Abuja at 3.25pm and were decorated with Nigeria’s national colours as they came out of the plane.

The ovation was loud —just like when the final whistle sounded on Sunday.

In spite of the presence of a long row of security personnel, the fans rushed to the 2013 AFCON champions to either have a handshake or a hug.

Some Immigration and Customs officers abandoned their duty posts to embrace the players as they walked down to the arrival hall.

The Nigerian Supporters Club sang victory songs and played musical instruments to the delight of all.

At the reception organised for the champions at the National Stadium, Abuja, fans turned out in large numbers to be part of history.

Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Malam Bala Muhammed, on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan, received the team. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) band entertained the crowd.

Nigerians took the opportunity to showcase the cultural diversity of the country through their dances.

Groups, such as the National Council for Women Societies, Abuja branch, People’s Democratic Party Women in the FCT and the Isuikwuato Development Union were represented.

The Umuobiala group from Abia State carried placards that read: “We welcome our heroic son Sunday Mba”.

Mba, a midfielder, is from Abia State.

Some fans forced their way onto the tarmac.

The team returned from South Africa, where they won the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday by beating Burkina Faso 1-0. It was their third victory at the continental tournament.

As the FCT Minister and other officials of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) made their way to the tarmac, the crowd surged, tore through the security wall and stormed the place.

According to NAN’s report,the front door of the arrival hall of the international wing of the airport was broken. Some people were injured.

Col. Oladipo James (rtd), the Head of the Aviation Security at the airport, had earlier warned the public against forcing their way into the tarmac.

“The situation in the country has compelled us to prevent people from gaining entrance to the tarmac,” he said.

Some fans,who refused to vacate the tarmac, were chased out with sniffer dogs by security agents.

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