By Tony Ubani
President Goodluck Jonathan had good intentions when he ordered the sports minister, Tammy Danagogo to fly over $3.5m to the Eagles to pay the players their World Cup appearance fees.
The players had demanded their share of the $8m that fifa would pay the Nigeria Football Federation as one of the World Cup finalists. They protested before the match against France and even refused to train for a day over it.
FIFA was yet to pay Nigeria their World Cup bonus but the team, fearing that they might not be paid when FIFA pays the NFF protested and wanted theirs in advance.
We gathered that after Senate President, David Mark, contacted the Presidency over the problem in Brazil, President Jonathan ordered Sports Minister to take money to the team in Brazil. And in a Presidential jet, the minister landed and handed the money to Stephen Keshi, the coach. Keshi asked that the money be given to the team secretary Enebi.
The sharing of over $3.5 money, we gathered, took its tool on the team on the eve of the round of 16 match with France last Monday. Who gets what? They continued debating and arguing on the sharing formula till 2.00am on the match day.
The President’s intended good gesture backfired.
“Did you notice that the players tired out in the dying minutes of the match and conceded two goals,”a source with the team asked yesterday.
“There was no way they could have been strong when they were fighting over money and could not sleep well and prepare for the match against France,”the source said adding “the fight over money destroyed the team and unfortunately the President’s gesture backfired.”
We also gathered that President Jonathan was aware that NFF had not received the money from FIFA but was sad that the federation failed to explain things to them and avoid the action that was going to tarnish the image of the country. The news that Nigerian players were protesting to the extent of missing training disturbed the President and he gave the directive that boosted the purses of the players but which didn’t help Nigeria’s game against France. Problems will eventually arise as the players who played the qualifying matches but who didn’t make the World Cup team were all entitled to the World Cup grant. But those who shared the money in Brazil were so much in a hurry that it was not clear if they included them.