BY: Tayo Ogunbiyi
At the recently concluded African Women Championship held in Cameroon, the Super Falcons of Nigeria emerged as African champions again. In a tensed final match at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Omnisports Stadium in Yaoundé, Cameroon, against the host nation’s Indomitable Lioness, who were backed by an understandably hostile 40,000 full capacity crowd, the Super Falcons fought gallantly to win 1-0 and remain worthy African champions. With the feat, the Super Falcons have won the coveted title for an unprecedented 10th time.
Not only did the team emerge African champions for a record 10 times, five of its players including tournament highest goal scorer, Azizat Oshoala, were selected in the championship’s Team of the Tournament. Also, by leading the Falcons to victory, coach and former captain of the team, Florence Omagbemi, became the second person in Africa to win the AWC as a player and a coach. The outcome of the tournament roundly authenticates the Falcons’ credential as the powerhouse of African female football.
The victorious Falcons side has since arrived Nigeria amid little or no fanfare befitting of a side that has attained such a remarkable accomplishment. According to reports, the all-conquering team was received on arrival, by the Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick, and other board members, including Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau. The team is now holed up in a hotel in Abuja, where the players expect that Sports Minister Solomon Dalung and the NFF will make good their promises of settling their outstanding allowances.
Reports have it that the Falcons players are being owed outstanding allowances totalling $16,500 each. Characteristically, the team’s preparation for the tournament wasn’t as top notched as it ought to be as it merely made do with playing local sides to keep in shape before jetting out to Cameroon for the tournament. Indeed, it was alleged that it was due to the persuasion of the team’s Chief Coach, who herself has not been paid her salaries and allowances by the NFF for the greater part of this year, that the players were able to concentrate on winning the championship.
As usual, the NFF blamed the untidy Falcons situation on lack of funding. It is, however, instructive to note that the Sports minister and his entourage consisting of top ministry officials and the NFF chieftains were ferried to Yaoundé to watch the final match in a chartered flight. Definitely, such a luxurious travelling arrangement does not portray a federation or sports ministry that is experiencing a financial crunch.
Well, it could be argued that the trip was made possible through corporate sponsorship. Assuming this is true, it remains a mystery as to why the same corporate sponsorship was not made available for the team to have a smooth preparation. Indeed, it was reported that as soon as the sports minister and the NFF officials were done with the usual victory razzmatazz after the final match, they headed straight to the airport to board their chartered aircraft, leaving the victorious ladies to sort themselves out. What kind of a nation treats her heroes with such outrageous disdain? Considering the consistency of the Super Falcons in emerging victorious over the years on the African female football scene, players and officials of the team certainly deserve a much better treatment. It doesn’t really speak well of us as a nation to send athletes to a major sporting event without making adequate preparation for the payment of their entitlements.
According to an unconfirmed report, the defeated Cameroonian team was promised 22 million CFA (N20 million), to win the trophy. On the contrary, our players were promised nothing while their legitimate allowances for taking part in the competition had even yet to be paid. How else can a nation mock her heroes/heroines?
For the record, the Falcons ought to be paid $3,000 each for every win secured in the group stage of the tournament while semi-final and final triumphs were to earn them $4,000 and $5,000 per player respectively. This implies that each of the players is being owed $16,500, since they won two of the three group fixtures ($6,000) and drew the remaining one ($1,500). Similarly, the players have yet to receive winning bonuses for the two qualifiers against Senegal, as well as camp allowances for the tournament. The coaches of the team are equally being owed their monthly salaries and camp allowances as well as match bonuses since March.
Presently, reports have it that the players are poised for a major confrontation with officials of the nation’s football federation. Sadly, a few of them who ply their trade abroad ought o have returned to their respective bases. But they are hanging around due to the whole issue of non-payment of their outstanding entitlements. In as much as it remains a rare honour for anyone to represent one’s nation in any capacity, it is, however, important to stress that it is the responsibility of the nation to take adequate care of her athletes. The issue of shoddy treatment of our sports men and women has become a nasty recurrence that must be tackled once and for all.
It doesn’t really speak well of our pedigree as a leading African nation to continue to indulge in such a messy business. If pubic and political office holders are not denied their es acodes while on foreign duties, it is only normal that athletes who bare all the odds to fly high our national flag at major sporting events should be treated fairly.
The NFF, in particular, needs to come up with creative strategies that would ensure that all the national teams are effectively taken care of. There is hardly any time in recent era that the NFF does not have issues with the payment of coaches and players across all strata of the national teams. The pedigree of the Falcons as a winning brand should be effectively harnessed to rake up good sponsorship deals for the team. There are so many local and international corporate organisations, especially with gender related products and services that will be willing to leverage the Falcons’ success. All the NFF needs to do is to be better organised, transparent and proactive.
Going cap in hands, all the time, to beg for funds each time our national teams are on assignment is, to say the least, unprofessional and demeaning.
- The NFF must stop it! Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja