By Paul Bassey

I bet the last has not been heard of the diplomatic embarrassment suffered by Nigeria as a result of the Eagles decision not to honour their FIFA Confederations Cup engagement over match bonuses.

In far away Malabo, the news hit me courtesy EURONEWS and I was taken back, totally shocked and ashamed.

Maybe I should rewind.

I first heard it mooted in Kenya that Skipper Vincent Enyeama was threatening a show down over the 5,000 dollars winning bonus, claiming that he and his colleagues were not briefed.

I then made enquiries only to be told that in a meeting Coach Stephen Keshi had with the NFF President, he was told about the financial position of the NFF that also led to the reduction in the number of back room staff of all the national teams.

Though Keshi made a case for his dropped coaches his plea was turned down “ for now” and he then decided to assume the emoluments of one of them.

It was my belief therefore that Keshi should have told his players and explained the financial position of the NFF. Despite that, the NFF President went ahead and met with the players in Kenya and explained to them why the bonus had to be slashed.

My happiness was that Coach Keshi was reported to have told the players to accept the situation. This to me was key because he had a strong hold on the players and there was no way the players were going to strike without his approval.

While all the meetings were going on prior to a major match, I considered it a great distraction. I believed the players should have been focused and concentrated. Did this affect their showing against Kenya? Anyway, we managed to win and this was enough, for now.

It was when I returned to Nigeria that I was told that despite the meetings and assurances, after the match the players refused to collect the bonuses, saying that it will be “resolved in Namibia”

Before Namibia, the Kenyans favoured us greatly by holding Malawi in Blantyre and all we needed was to beat Namibia and qualify for the next round with only a match to spare, yet these Eagles  again subjected Nigerians to mental torture before managing a late draw. This is not the team that should hold us to ransom, this is not the team that should blackmail this nation on the eve of a major FIFA competition.

Perhaps a military regime would have called their bluff, disbanded them for their ignorant belief that  they are doing us a favour. Thousands of countries will pay with an arm to be part of the FIFA Confederation Cup.

Millions of players world wide will do anything to be afforded this pedestal to showcase their wares to the rest of the world, yet our own players can afford to selfishly short circuit FIFA logistics, waste seats reserved for them in a plane cancel hotel reservations in order to force their believed due.

Let it be said here again that the NFF NEVER PAID 10,000 Dollars as winning bonus. Running into the world Cup and given the perceived need for motivation, the Federal Government set up a Presidential Monitoring Committee under Governor Amaechi that COMPLEMENTED the Nigeria Football Federation with 5,000 dollars.

I was in a meeting that recommended a return to status quo the moment the Amaechi committee was no more, yet the board of the NFF believed they could go on given the availability of funds. How come the same players that have benefited all the jumbo largesse when it was available now refuse to believe there is no money?

If the players and their officials know what we do not know, they should come out in the open. Enough of baseless allegations bordering on“NFF officials are eating fat while we are suffering” this has to be proved, substantiated.

In Kenya while the players were busy rejecting 5,000 dollars the First Vice President of the NFF Chief Mike Umeh signed and collected 1,200 Dollars as his due for the period!

My shock was complete last Saturday when I read that it was the coaches who instigated the players to go on strike because for everything the players collect, they collect double! That some back room staff whose bonuses had been cut are now using the players to fight back.

I thought we had grown beyond those days of strikes and threats and blackmail perpetuated by National team mafias. What happened in Namibia will remain a black dot in the history books of not only our football but our sporting history as a nation.

Here in Malabo, the leader of the Tunisian delegation said “Nigeria has money” that is why we can afford to pay such “extravagant” bonuses for “mere qualifiers”.

The Tunisians pay 3,000 Euros for away victories, 1,500 Euros for away draws and home wins and nothing for home draws, (some Eagles back room staff were getting as much as 8,000 dollars for victory and half of that for a draw whether they played at home or away!)

Their players do not fly business class like ours, nor do they get 100 dollars daily camp allowance which the Eagles get.

Yes, we are not Kenya, Botswana, Central Africa Republic, Congo…….and other countries who pay 1000 dollars and less for bonuses, but can we for now boast players who are considered in the top 100 in world football?

Five thousand dollars even by world standard is a lot of money, when you add it to return tickets, five star hotel accommodation and feeding, camp allowances……

The NFF says it is broke. That they do not get one quarter of their budget from the federal government. They say verify from  the National Sports Commission, ask the Presidency. They say they have been borrowing money to meet their programmes. Are the players saying this is not true to warrant such a disgraceful and mercantilistic  stand?

Must our footballers don the toga of touts, who damn the consequences of their actions as long as they can get squeeze out money albeit illegally?

Assuming the players had a case to prove,(?) was that the best way to go?


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