When the country’s senior national team, the Super Eagles, take on the Les Bleu of France as the French side is nicknamed on Monday in Brasilia in one of the Round of 16 games at the on-going World Cup, any likely loss to the French side should have the blame pinned on the shoulders of the bunch of racketeers we have in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) led by Aminu Maigari as well as some of their lackeys in the Nigerian sports media circle.
This is not providing a ready made excuse for the Super Eagles and their technical crew led by Stephen Keshi not to get their plans right and assume they wouldn’t be criticised were they to lose to France (whom I consider every inch beatable), but surely the NFF, Sports Ministry and by extension the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration would take a lot of bashing. You may wonder what has Jonathan got to do with the Super Eagles, well his government oversees every aspect of our nation and the Eagles are not left out. Thus for the Super Eagles to be trending all over the internet about their boycott of training last Thursday ahead of their game on Monday due to non-payment of their World Cup appearance fees is totally unacceptable and a big dent to our country’s image with all the blame lying on the NFF and indeed the Nigerian government’s shoulders.
Paying the Super Eagles bonuses or match fees for their games against Iran, Bosnia, and Argentina is totally different from paying them appearance fees. The NFF claim they paid the Eagles $5,000 each for their draw, as well as loss against Iran and Argentina respectively, while paying them $10,000 for their win against Bosnia. In essence, each player of the team has received $20,000 each for their group stage matches as match fees or bonus. This however, is totally different from appearance fees at the world cup. Every ardent sport follower know that players participating in major competitions e.g say tennis players at the Wimbledon Grand Slam are entitled to a standard appearance fee which is different from their prize money should they advance past each round.
What the Super Eagles players are asking for is that they be paid 30% of what the NFF gets from FIFA as prize money for each stage of the competition. That to me is even a bit on the low side as I would recommend each player gets at least $100,000 as appearance fee for representing Nigeria in the group stages alone. As it stands Nigeria through the NFF are to get $8 million for participating in the group stages of the World cup just like the other 31 participating teams. This is aside from the $1.5 million already given to the NFF by FIFA to prepare the team. For getting to the Round of 16 the NFF gets another $9 million whether the Eagles lose to France or not (see FIFA prize money breakdown for each teams, so why would there be any argument or hanky-panky in paying these players their entitled rights? Are these NFF racketeers mad or something?
That we have to hold countless meetings with the players after the competition had already started is a big shame on the country. In 2012 before the European Nations cup, the English national team knew they were going to earn £100,000 if they won the Euros months before the tourney and it was incentivised for each stage they got too. The French team were expecting £290,000 for a trophy win, while the Germans were promised £250,000. These figures were different from the match bonus, in fact the Germans waived their group stage match bonuses for Euro 2012 due to the hefty appearance fees they were promised. For the World Cup in 2014, the terms for the appearance fees of the Three Lions of England were settled in January, a clear six months before the competition. Its easy to say that is England, but they also have an uneasy relationship with their players over appearance fees and thus they started negotiations many months before the competition between the FA and the players’ representatives. It resolved that each England player would get £350,000 each for winning the tournament and it was heavily incentivized for progressing through the group stage and this is different from what they get as match bonus for each games they play which the players usually give to charity as the appearance fee is way bigger than their match bonuses.
For the racketeers at the NFF this is too much for them to comprehend and they would do anything to sully the image of the players so as to escape with the money when FIFA pays them. Their allies in the sport media in Nigeria are even worse, as its a shame reading or listening to a sports journalist in the country who should know better defending the NFF. I listened to one the other day who has spent years as a football writer in a well known football magazine in the country and he was defending the indefensible. He practically argued that the Eagles were only entitled to match bonuses and not an appearance fee. I would like to ask such a person, what is the NFF going to do with over $17 million prize money ($8 million for group stage and $9 million for Round of 16) the Eagles players have helped them earn at the World Cup so far? Is it justifiable for the NFF racketeers to keep all of that money and not pay an appearance fee for the main protagonists (the players and technical crew)? The story is that in the past when the players weren’t aware of their rights, the NFF used to collect such monies from FIFA after the World Cup and deny receipt of it, sharing some of the bounty with sports editors so as to hush up the story.
Well not any more, times have changed and everyone is more enlightened including FIFA who know how corrupt some of these FA’s are. Its sad for anyone to blame Ghanaian or Cameroonian players for fighting for their rights. These agreements should be in place well before the World Cup, and not during. Ghanaian player John Boye was seen kissing his $100,000 appearance fee and I don’t blame him one bit as its his right. He’s a professional sports person and deserves to be paid his appearance fee for appearing for Ghana at the World Cup, that has nothing to do with patriotism or lack of it. So for the Eagles to boycott training has nothing to do with lack of patriotism, they just don’t trust these NFF racketeers and their spin doctors in the Nigerian sports media.
NFF’s Technical committee head Chris Green in the defense of the federation criticized the players for their request, saying it was an unreasonable request as they cannot be paid now and they have agreed with them that they would get it after FIFA must have paid the money. He also said the NFF is expecting FIFA to deduct our feeding, accommodation and transport expenses at the World Cup from the prize money. He further said: “In 2010, FIFA eventually gave us $6.4m out of the $8m grant. This time, we cannot get up to that because we are playing more games here in Brazil and the logistics of travelling here are so huge”. To understand how these NFF racketeers work, the question to ask them is what have you done with the N880 million released by the Federal Government out of the N1.4 billion the NFF budgeted for the World Cup? If accommodation, feeding and logistics are going to be checked out of our prize money (standing at the moment at a huge $17 million) by FIFA, then why not pay the players their appearance fees from the monies released to them already by the FG? These NFF racketeers led by Aminu Maigari are plain looters and this racket has been going on for decades at the federation even before this present administration.
In any case FIFA’s secretary-general Jerome Valcke has waded into the appearance fee row threatening African teams including Nigeria describing it as sad, he said: "The players have the right to receive their money but it would be much easier to do this by bank transfer. The fact that the money (for Ghana) came in cash is also sad because I was ready to sign a letter, as long as I had a copy of the agreement between the national association and the players, that the money would be paid by Fifa by bank transfer into their personal accounts." Valcke further added that something needs to be done. "At future World Cups we will ask the national associations to provide us with their agreements with their players to make sure that this kind of episode does not happen again," he said (see full story on: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/28065553 ). So in essence, the Super Eagles players can take their agreements with the NFF to FIFA and ensure they are paid their rightful appearance fees. If the NFF racketeers try dodging payment, they should report them to FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) through their representatives, as this stupid injustice and lack of common-sense must not be allowed to continue.
Come Monday though if issues are not sensibly resolved , when the Eagles file out they may just be playing against the NFF racketeers rather than France and we all know what the result may be. If you don’t know rewind to France 1998, when the Eagles were beaten black and blue by Denmark in a Round of 16 tie, a match preceded by arguments between the players and NFA over bonuses and appearance fees.
Ola’ Idowu a Management Consultant and Researcher writes in from the UK.