NFF in the race to abort players’ boycott of the third-place match today
Former Super Falcons Coach, Godwin Izilien, has described as outrageous the tendency of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to owe players and officials bonuses at major competitions.
On Wednesday morning, the Super Falcons refused to leave their hotel rooms to train ahead of today’s third-place play-off against Zambia.
Nigeria and Zambia will battle for the bronze medals of the 12th Women Africa Cup of Nations from 9.00 pm at the Complexe Mohamed V in Casablanca – Morocco’s economic and industrial capital.
In 2004 Izilien led the Falcons to win the African Women Championship (AWC) title in Johannesburg, South Africa. But after the triumph, the players embarrassed the country by refusing to vacate their hotel rooms due to non-payment of match entitlement and bonuses.
Then, officials in the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo pleaded with the girls to return to Nigeria. While the players got their entitlement, Izilien and his assistant coaches were left out. He is yet to get the money ($28,750) till today.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Izilien carpeted the NFF for the latest bonus row rocking the camp of the Super Falcons at the ongoing Morocco 2022 African Women’s Nations Cup. He said: “It is a criminal act for the NFF to go into a competition of this magnitude without money to pay the players.”
The Guardian learnt that each Super Falcons player in Morocco is entitled to a $100 daily allowance, $3,000 for each group stage win – with Nigeria winning twice in Group C – and $1,500 for a draw.
Following a recent payment review by the NFF, the players are also expected to pocket $5,000 for their win against Cameroun in the quarterfinal.
Their defeat to Morocco in the semifinal on Monday cost the girls the proposed payments of $7,000 and $10,000 for victories in the semifinal and final respectively.
To Izilien, the usual attitude of the NFF to treat players and officials of the Super Falcons as ‘second class citizens’ must stop.
“One thing the NFF must understand is the fact that all the players do not reside in the same place.
They need money to take care of themselves and members of their families. When we returned from Jo’burg 2004, President Obasanjo gave the then NFA money for players and officials of the team. As we speak, I am yet to get mine. God is watching them (NFF).”
Also speaking on the issue yesterday, former Super Falcons goalkeeper, Rachael Ayegba, said it is embarrassing to see the team boycotting training over non-payment of both bonuses and allowances once again.
The players said they have not received their bonus from the NFF for qualifying for the tournament, as well as agreed allowances and over $10,000 owed to each of the squad for their three victories in Morocco.
“I’m really surprised and disappointed at the same time because I expected the NFF to have gone past this situation by now,” Ayegba told BBC Sport Africa.
“Because this (has been happening) over 18 to 20 years, yet we are still dealing with the same situation. The same thing happened to the team in the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, and now the girls are boycotting the training.
“For me, it’s embarrassing to see that nothing has changed. I saw it on social media and was dismayed and disappointed. I’m really ashamed.”
Goalkeeper Ayegba was part of Nigeria’s 2004 Wafcon-winning side that staged a sit-in in their hotel in South Africa in a bid to be paid their dues. She was also part of the 2007 Women’s World Cup squad that also had to protest in China to get their money.
There were insinuations in some quarters yesterday that the Super Falcons might boycott today’s third-place match against Zambia if the issue is not sorted out.
However, NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, told BBC Sport Africa that they were “dealing with the issue” – but funds need to come from the Sports Ministry before any payment can be made.