A major confrontation capable of further embarrassing Nigeria at the 2016 Olympic Games appears to be brewing between members of the Dream Team VI and officials of Nigeria Football Federation over a cash gift from a Japanese doctor.
The donation, totalling $390,000, came from Katsuya Takasu, a plastic surgeon and football enthusiast, to boost the morale of the Nigerian players who have been bogged down by financial inadequacies.
Mr. Takasu informed the Nigerian government through its embassy in Tokyo that he intended to make the donation, adding that he would fly Brazil to personally hand in the funds to the players and also watch Nigerian team’s duel with Honduras played this Saturday.
Nigeria defeated Honduras 3-2, winning bronze at the Olympics, 20 years after it defeated Argentina to clinch gold at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.
Mr. Takasu said the team coach, Samson Siasia, and its captain, Mikel Obi, should each take $200,000 and $190,000, respectively.
But out of the blue on Saturday afternoon, reports emerged that some NFF officials had ‘hijacked’ the process and demanded that Mr. Takasu must hand the money to them for onward disbursement to team members.
Idah Peterside, a sports analyst and former goalkeeper for the Super Eagles, was amongst the first persons to raise the alarm on social media.
“More trouble in the dream team camp….the money from the Japanese man to the dream team.has been hijacked by the NFA (he meant NFF),” Mr. Petersaid said. “They want to use the money to pay the coaches as salaries. Bitrus Bewarang was sent to get the money from the Japanese, but the players say it’s their money.”
Mr. Peterside’s alarm elicited immediate response from Nigerians who said the NFF had no business fiddling with the donation because its conditions were clear, and many condemned those responsible for the controversy as greedy and shameless.
“There’s greed. Then, there’s corruption. And there’s that condition of having no capacity for shame whatsoever,” tweeted Gbenga Sesan, a capacity development expert.
But the NFF denied the allegations, saying it took over the process because it wanted the funds to be routed through appropriate channels.
“The NFF has not collected any money from Japanese plastic surgeon, Dr. Katsuya Takasu, as against the misinformation by Mr. Idah,” the NFF said in a post on its Twitter handle Saturday afternoon.
Amaju Pinnick, the NFF president, said since Nigeria is a sovereign nation, it would be out of place to allow an individual make donations directly to individual team members.
“Nigeria is a sovereign nation and such a donation must go through a process. If we get a go-ahead, it will go directly to the team,” Mr. Pinnick said. “To say NFF has ‘hijacked’ the money is outright mischief. The checks must be concluded and we are given a go-ahead to collect by the government.”
A letter from Nigeria’s Charge d’Affaires in Tokoya to the sports authorities stated the beneficiaries of Mr. Takasu’s donation as Mr. Siasia and Mr. Obi, but the NFF or any of its officials was not included.
Mr. Takasu said he made the donation to the players after hearing about their financial crisis.
“I read about the financial problems affecting the team and I felt the need to make a big contribution,” Mr. Takasu told the BBC earlier this week.