by Japheth Omojuwa
Indicting players when issues of allowances come up with the national team will never solve the problem. The reaction of the players is only the result of a deeper issue.
Players of the Greek national team raised patriotism a notch when they decided to donate their earnings from the World Cup into the building of a training centre for the national team. Emulating their Greek counterparts, players of the Algerian national team will donate their earnings to the poor in Gaza. Apart from these two teams, not once did we hear of cash or allowances issues in the camps of teams from other parts of the world apart from Cameroonian players who made a big show before a ball was kicked at the World Cup, the Ghanaian players who were focused on getting paid before their make or mar game against Portugal and the Nigerian players before their 2nd round game against France. Cameroonians and Ghanaians will do better at looking at what went wrong with their own teams, let us take a look at the Super Eagles and why we get to hear about pay issues at virtually every tournament they take part in.
One would look at the Super Eagles and would immediately blame them for always seeming to play only for the money and always fighting over same. It would be better to understand that there would be no need to fight if one was already given or assured of receiving one’s due. Over the years, players of the national teams have been promised gifts and cash that some of them are yet to receive until this day. Ask the winners of the 1994 World Cup and the houses promised them. We cannot afford to pretend about our country and the way promises continue to be made without being kept. As one of the young students that marched at the Nigeria ’99 U/20 World Cup, we were to be paid daily dues for practice and honourarium for participation at the opening ceremony. As these words get typed 15 years later, most of us never got a dime. We were of course excited to represent our country but if money was already made available for our participation, isn’t it only just right to pay us our due? The same thing happened the following year when we participated at the opening ceremony of the African Nations Cup in the year 2000. Now imagine that happening repeatedly to a team of professionals who have seen those who came before them abandoned by the national team?
Players like Reuben Agboola were abandoned by the national team despite copping career ending injuries while playing for same. Our players know that when push comes to shove, they are on their own. Imagine the Super Eagles donating their pay to the Nigeria Football Federation to build a football centre. You know that the likelihood of the money being used judiciously or being used at all is as low as expecting snow in July if you live in London.
It is all about precedence, the football federation must build and earn the trust of the players over the coming years. If players know that they will be paid their dues after certain timelines, there’d be no need to fight over allowances. We don’t hear them complain about their clubs not paying their wages because a process is often in place that makes such payments automatic from the day the contract is signed.
Indicting players when issues of allowances come up with the national team will never solve the problem. The reaction of the players is only the result of a deeper issue. The real issue is the football federation. Why would adults suddenly start arguing about money if everything was truly discussed and agreed upon before hand? These players are professionals, they earn to play football; they are not covered by government pensions in retirement. What they can earn now is what they get. Several old national team players are today wallowing in poverty, today’s players are not blind, they can see all that and they don’t want to be victims of such failures.
You have to look at this beyond our football; our doctors are currently on strike, our university lecturers go on strike every other year, our polytechnic lecturers are on strike, civil servants are owed across several states, pension belonging to the aged continue to be stolen and in the midst of this, politicians continue to loot and to steal. What you see is a nation where people want their share out of the system. We must respect those who choose to earn their pay because we have thousands of people feeding fat on the rest of us who deserve nothing but jail terms.
Several of the Super Eagles players support charities and are breadwinners supporting big families beyond their nuclear set up. Football is a limited career, few people play at the top for up to 15 years. The FIFA World Cup is not a charity event, every participating country is rewarded and countries are then rewarded according to how far they go in the competition. The Nigeria Football Federation’s chairman was praising the President for stepping into the cash row. That the cash row happened at all is an indictment on the chairman’s leadership ability. How many things do we want the President to be burdened with if he has to step into cash matters involving the Super Eagles? And don’t even think lessons have been learnt, this is likely to happen again at our next major tournament. May be it is just who we are but one thinks these things shouldn’t be made to look like rocket science.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.