There is a saying that when you ride a Tiger, the odds are that you will end up in its belly if you dismount; therefore, when you jump on the back of a Tiger, getting off becomes precarious. That is the situation that Nigeria, and its Football Federation now find themselves as yet another episode of international embarrassment unfolded, this time in France. The Falcons refused to leave their hotel following the loss to Germany, with the players insisting that their outstanding allowances be paid.
First, it must be said that this issue is not peculiar to Nigeria. However, it is only common among teams in West Africa: Ghana, Togo and Cameroon have also been known to have near-riot issues on matters of player’s remuneration.
There are many factors to consider when dealing with this topic, beyond the (legitimate) clamoring of these young women, what we are seeing are just fruits of the seeds planted long ago. The first question to ask is:
How did we get here? While football is big business around the globe, and the likes of FIFA and UEFA have made playing in their senior tournaments very profitable, all nations are not equal. That is why the systems of remuneration differ from one country to the other, and each federation pay only what it can afford to its players. But in the case of Nigeria, we seem to have bitten of more than we can chew with the payments to every side that represents Nigeria , age-grade or no. Nigeria is probably the only country in the world that age-grade players get cash rewards. And since previous teams were so rewarded, the current ones look forward to it. But the issue is that…
The NFF cannot afford to make all these payments. No matter what the song and dance from the federation is; the fact that these issue keeps recurring means they cannot afford it – not in the past, not now. Every day we hear about ‘global best practices’ and ‘auditors’, the question is: what are the audit books saying? And which part of ‘global best practice’ allows for a team to attend a tournament without certain things being agreed? The NFF sat with the Eagles and agreed before the Men’s World Cup, why wasn’t the same done for the women? But beyond that,
When will we make a policy that will make payments uniform? From what we are reading, the Falcons received $5,000 per game as winning bonus at the Women’s AFCON, and earned $10,000 for victory at the Final; but they are on $4,000 per game at the FIFA Women’s Cup. If that is correct, it just encapsulates the problem. And from what we know from the history of the Eagles, the players get ‘motivational bonuses’ for games the NFF think are ‘crucial’. That’s an open door of expectations right there…for ALL national teams. And that is not ‘global best practice’, at least not in the countries we are emulating. Finally, when will Nigeria and the NFF put a STOP to the practice of paying match bonuses to age-grade teams? But the discussion on that is an entire branch by itself.
Almost the entire (yearly) budget of the NFF (seem to) go towards player bonuses (and logistics). That is a part of the reason football at the local level is the way it is. Football administration is not all about attending tournaments and paying bonuses. It is also laying the foundation (or building on the foundation) for the future, and making policies that will ensure the development of local talents. The NFF (both in times past, and now) seem to have focused on one, and are paying lip service to the other. And until that mindset changes, two things are guaranteed: we will keep seeing a repeat of the France issue, and the development of football at the home front will continue to suffer.
It is not rocket science.