The Nigeria Football Federation [NFF] on Wednesday, December 16, held its 71st Congress, and its major decision was a vote of confidence on the Amaju Pinnick-led board.
At the time of the Congress, players of Taraba United [a team in the Nigeria Professional Football League] were on a sit-in [if that is the right word] on the perimeters of the Government House in Jalingo, protesting unpaid salaries for 11 months.
We also heard tales of woe from the camp of the national U-23 team [Dream Team VI] and they were not refreshing in the least, more so because they finally persevered to win a first ever CAF U-23 Nations Cup title for the country.
But these are not the last of the unpalatable stories, we are hearing or have heard concerning the various national teams and clubs in the local league.
There are so many questions that have been raised on these issues, but none has been effectively answered. There are also confirmed reports from Senegal that the U-23 players had to wash and wear the same set of jerseys for the duration of the tournament – that should be unheard of in 2015!
So what kind of agreement did Pinnick sign with Nike?
NFF owing interminably
We are at a point where national coaches are owed monies for upwards of three months and they have been shackled – they do have the right to protest. We have players in various national camps that have not been paid their allowances.
On the day of the congress, the new minister in charge of sports, Solomon Dalung, instructed the NFF to pay up all outstanding monies owed to the players and coaches immediately but the miracle would be if this instruction is heeded before the end of 2015.
If these monies are paid, it would portray Pinnick and his crew in serious bad light because it would mean that the money had always been available but they just decided to be ‘wicked’ to the players and their coaches whilst their own estacode was never owed.
We also heard that the NSC was in no way trying to shirk its responsibility to the U-23 team, even though the players and coaches bore the brunt of not being paid. So, let us pause for a moment here…
Should the team – the coaching team and the players be made to suffer because the NSC ostensibly does not trust the NFF to do the right thing?
Definitely not! As long as the players are representing the country, the overseeing bodies must come together to ensure that the athletes become the priority and not individual egos.
LMC needs more enforcement
The League Management Company [LMC] headed by Shehu Dikko also has a lot of questions to answer. How was it possible that a whole season of football was played and some teams did not pay their players?
The communique released at the end of the Congress posited, “In view of the unsavoury situation of some Clubs perpetually owing players’ salaries and allowances in the just-concluded League Season, Congress empowered the Executive Committee to enact regulations to protect the welfare of players and officials in the Nigeria League.”
Is this not medicine after death? What happened to the bank guarantees that was supposed to be presented by all the clubs in the NPFL before the start of the season?
No matter the positions or declarations – as long as the LMC does not enforce as much, we will continue to have situations like the Taraba United impasse.
And Taraba is not the odd one out, there are many more clubs in the NPFL that are owing months of salaries to their players and nothing has been done about them – so what is really the job of the LMC?
The major and most important proponent for the game of football to develop in Nigeria are the players – but at the moment they are mocked, slighted and disregarded. The administrators [club and national] have shown lack of respect for the players. But the players themselves do not seem to realise what power they hold.
If only they could unionise properly, then the administrators will get the gist.
But at the moment, the NFF and by extension the LMC are not doing enough to protect the right of the players, but it must stop!