Just last week, President Mohammadu Buhari honored with cash rewards outstanding athletic heroes who did Nigeria proud at both old and recent sporting events. Athletes who won different medals for the nation in various international sporting tournaments were honored and rewarded which had among many others, Nigeria’s National Basketball team (Men), also called the D’Tigers and their coach received N600,000 each.
One player of the D’Tigers, lamented the team’s disappointment over President Muhammadu Buhari’s honorary gifts showered on the heroic athletes. The player who claims he was speaking on behalf of the team, pleaded anonymity, explaining to the PUNCH that the N600,000 the President gave them for winning the 2015 Africa Nations Cup would wasn’t quite what they expected for their achievements.
“Do you know that it’s less than $2,000 at the current market value? Is that what you are giving to NBA players for winning a competition for the first time in the history of Nigeria? If Senegal, whose women’s team have won the African cup several times, could still give blocks of flats to their players, what then are we saying when we give such an amount to our players?
“We would have preferred to be honored in other ways like getting the least of the national honours or a postage stamp with our photo. That would have been better than for us to get half of what young footballers from age grade competitions, who should have been given scholarships, got.
“Those who advised the President are responsible for the poor state of sports in Nigeria as they always gave too much preference to footballers.
“We D’Tigers got $100 as camp allowance and $500 as bonus for winning the African cup whereas the Eagles got $10,000 for winning a qualifying match to a tournament. What we achieved was not just winning the cup but also getting an Olympic ticket – the only ticket for Africa. It’s not fair.
“We have been talking to other players to join the team (D’Tigers) for the Olympics but how do we now market the team to them? Is it by telling them that no government official will ever visit their camp? The CHAN Eagles have been visited by the Sports Minister but we all know that CHAN is not the same as the Africa Cup of Nations. Nobody bothered to visit us. We don’t need $2,000 because it can’t buy first class tickets; we want to be honoured properly. How can I leave New York for Abuja for a ceremony that gives me less than $2,000?” he lamented.