Nigeria awarded national honours for AFCON run



Nigeria's silver medal-winning team at the Africa Cup of Nations have been rewarded with national honours and gifts by the country's president Bola Tinubu, prompting vice captain William Troost-Ekong to promise that the team will try to deliver the title at the next edition.

All 25 players and team officials, including Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Ibrahim Gusau and general secretary Mohammed Sanusi, were received by the president and top members of his cabinet at the State House in the country's capital Abuja on their arrival from the Ivory Coast and conferred with Nigeria's award of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON).

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Captain Ahmed Musa, and defender Kenneth Omeruo already have MON awards from winning the AFCON title in 2013, and an NFF official told ESPN that the memo had already been sent to the presidency to upgrade their awards to Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).

The players and their officials were also gifted a flat and a plot of land each in Abuja, Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory.

"I am very proud of you," Tinubu said. "This country is proud of you because you gave us great excitement. Your performance is confirmation that we can achieve so much as a nation if we all come together and unite for positive purposes, despite our diversity.

"You worked very hard and navigated your way through to the final. You lifted our spirit; you made us proud and you made us smile."

Tinubu also singled out Troost-Ekong and forward Victor Osimhen for additional praise. Napoli man Osimhen, the current African Player of the Year, was described as a "trojan" by the president and Troost-Ekong, who won the tournament MVP, was called a "warrior."

"I wish we are here presenting your excellency with the trophy," Troost-Ekong said in response. "But that is not the case despite giving our very best to the campaign.

"We have two people in this team who have gold medals, each sitting on either side of me [Musa and Omeruo]. In 2019, we won bronze medals. This time, we won silver medals. I believe that at the next competition, we will strike gold."

It is the first time a team that has not won a title have been conferred with the national award.

Nigeria lost 2-1 to hosts Ivory Coast in Sunday's final after going the entire tournament unbeaten. Their silver medal takes their AFCON medal haul to a record-extending 16, three more than Egypt, who have seven titles.

Keywords: Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations AFCON

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