Unpaid bonuses and allowances: Nigeria’s Super Falcons stand firm
You can only cover up excrement so long before it starts to stink. The story is becoming annoyingly familiar at this point: Nigeria’s participation at any international competition is incomplete without a stand-off over the payment of salaries and allowances of athletes.
The cast revolves, but the template remains. The latest to feel aggrieved are the Super Falcons, fresh from winning an 8th African title in Cameroon. Not even our winning less team in history is exempted from this dance of shame.
Their demands are simple: the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) owe each member of the team $25,650 and until the debt is paid, the team will remain holed up in Agura Hotel in the capital Abuja. The AWCON trophy is, of course, hostage.
The NFF, for their part, have been crying poverty. In truth, it is quite a heavy sum, and the General Secretary of the federation, Sanusi Mohammed has called for understanding in the face of the crippling economic crisis that has brought Africa’s largest economy to its knees.
How exactly have the NFF incurred such a bill? Well, for each group win at the AWCON, they are due $3,500 apiece (they won two games, totalling $7,000), while their sole draw entitles them to $1,750 each. The semi-final victory earned them $4,000 each and victory in the final $5,000. In addition, for a win and a draw in the two-legged qualifying play-off against Senegal, each player is due $5,250 at the same previous rate.
Included also is a $100 camp allowance over the 14-day stay in Cameroon, as well as for 10 days of camping over two legs of qualifying against Senegal. This all adds up to $25,400 per player.
There is also two stretches of local camping, 43 days and 35 days long respectively, for the qualifier and the AWCON proper. Each player is entitled to a N1,000 camp allowance, totalling roughly $250. Thus, we arrive at the $25,650 figure being requested by each member of the team.
The NFF, in a statement, sued for leniency, promising all outstanding bills will be paid when “the situation improves”. This is a quite disingenuous statement, a promise underpinned by no sense of responsibility. It would perhaps be easier to stomach if the Glass House was entirely transparent in its dealings.
For instance, while in Cameroon, the players and officials were given payments of N500,000 and N400,000 respectively upon threat of tournament boycott, with no clarity as to what the payments were for.
Ostensibly, this was to serve as some sort of “motivation”, following the NFF’s inability to pay outstanding allowances before the commencement of the AWCON as promised.
Well, there is no greater ‘motivation’ than paying athletes their due when due, and a broke body making unspecified, ad-hoc style payments does not exactly add up.
“The plan is to stay here until we all receive the money because the moment we leave there will be no opportunity to get it again,” one player, who insisted on anonymity, told me.
“They told us we would be paid before the tournament in Cameroon, but that never happened.
“We have made it clear to the NFF President and General Secretary that we are going nowhere until all our dues from the qualifying and the competition in Cameroon have been paid.”
It is easy to understand the economic situation of the country at the moment, but the recession certainly did not begin while the team was in Cameroon. To promise the team their allowances will be paid, only to then turn around and blame a lack of funds a couple of weeks later is not only dishonest, it is callous.
While not ideal, it is best to level with these ladies beforehand. For the most part, they are professional footballers plying their trades around the globe; their very presence indicates a certain level of patriotism.
Surely it would be better, and more respectful, for the NFF to grant full disclosure, and then throw itself on the tolerance and understanding of the team prior to the competition. Certainly not after the fact, and certainly not by employing threats and blackmail, as NFF President Amaju Pinnick reportedly did when he spoke to the team on telephone.
The economy has been in recession for the best part of a year now, and there is no point speaking of it as though it is a short-term inconvenience. What are these ladies to do if, as the general secretary Sanusi Mohammed seems to suggest, there is no Biblical turnaround in a matter of days?
It is not the first time the Super Falcons and the NFF have clashed over unpaid bonuses and allowances.
Twelve years ago, the team remained in their hotel in South Africa for four days after the country’s football ruling body failed to pay their bonuses for winning the 2004 African Women’s Championship.
Is the NFF truly seeking practical solutions in a bid to meet its financial obligations in a changing economic climate? Cutting cost, perhaps? Do we really need to have so many functioning national teams, all requiring upkeep at the same time? It is hard to convince anyone you are broke when no moves are being made to run a tighter ship. Surely, at this point, some grown-up, difficult decisions need to be taken, even if only to avoid this constant drama and embarrassment.
Bereaved and unpaid
Unpaid since taking charge in March, Super Falcons coach Florence Omagbemi, who led Nigeria to the title in Cameroon, lost her father in early September. Having only received a month’s salary since March, a cash-strapped Omagbemi is now in Warri for the burial of his father this weekend.
Attacker Chioma Wogu also suffered a family bereavement. She lost her father two months before the Falcons went to camp in Abuja for the tournament. Her family and relatives look up to her, not to mention a quick reminder that what she is being owed by the NFF will go a long way towards providing succour to her.