Despite being beaten 4-1 in Sunday’s West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup of Nations final by the eternal rival, Ghana, the home-based Super Eagles pocketed $65,000 (about N24 million) as runners-up of the sub-regional tournament.
Although Ghana’s Black Stars walked away from the Cape Coast Stadium with the ultimate star prize of $100,000 (about N36million) offered by FOX Sports, sponsors of the two-week WAFU Cup tournament, the home-based Eagles were consoled knowing they were not returning to Abuja empty-handed.
A breakdown of the prize money outlay showed that the first place prize was $100,000 while the runners-up prize was $50,000. The Niger Republic that defeated the Benin Republic 2-1 got the third-place prize of $25,000. The Squirrels of Benin got $10,000 as the fourth place finished team.
In addition to the prizes for the final and the losers’ final, they all got participation fees of $15,000 each.
The four semifinal losing teams got $10,000 each while the four second-round losers were consoled with $5,000 each.
Ghana defeated Nigeria 4-1 to avenge an earlier group stage 2-0 defeat they suffered in the hands of the Super Eagles who needed the win to qualify for the semifinals.
Goals from Stephen Sarfo (brace), Winnful Cobbina and Vincent Atingah set the Black Stars on a rollercoaster ride until Rabiu Ali’s late strike from a free-kick proved to be only a consolation.
Eagles Chief Coach, Salisu Yusuf admitted Nigeria lost to a better Ghanaian team. He hoped that his wards have learned a lesson from the tournament ahead of the African Nations Championships.
“We lost to a good team and they (Ghana) deserved to win because they took their chances and it was a good lesson for us,” the former Kano Pillars coach said in his post-match reaction to reporters.
Meanwhile, Players and officials of the home-based Super Eagles to the just ended WAFU tournament in Ghana have received commendations from the League Management Company (LMC).
The topflight league body urged them to build on the lessons learned from the sub-continental championship for the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN).
The players were drawn from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) organized by the LMC.
LMC Chairman, Shehu Dikko who was at the finals on Sunday, said he was impressed by the fight in the players that saw them come from the brink of ouster at the group stage to reach the finals.
“Winning the trophy would no doubt have been delightful, but the LMC is happy for the exposure the players have gained from playing in an international tournament of this nature and more importantly, it is a learning curve for them ahead of the 2018 CHAN”, stated Dikko.
The LMC described the tournament as a ‘win-win’ for domestic football in Nigeria and the entire West Africa, noting that the strength of West African football can be seen in the dominance of West African teams to recent World Cup tournaments.
Dikko also noted that the tournament has offered the players and coaches more time to bond and understand each other as compared to when they were just invited to camp to play for the CHAN qualifiers, adding, “It is our belief that a lot has been learnt on the side of the coaches and on the side of the players.
Whatever gaps were observed at the WAFU tournament will be the tool to improve the team going forward”.