Even though they were yet to be paid their allowances leading to the 2016 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Cameroon, players of Nigeria’s senior women’s football team, the Super Falcons were hopeful a victory in the Central African country would win over the Nigeria Football Federation and their entitlements would be settled.
They couldn’t be more wrong, however, as almost a week after winning a record eighth African championship, the players are still holed up at a hotel in Abuja, waiting for when the backlog of entitlements owed them will be settled.
But going by the statement released by the NFF on Tuesday, that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon, and the players have said they would not relent in their quest to collect their monies, and have vowed not to leave the Agura Hotels in Abuja, where they currently are until their entitlements are paid.
When this reporter paid a visit to the team’s camp on Wednesday, it was a sorry sight to behold as the players continue to hang around the hotel with the hope that the issue will be resolved soon.
Several of the players who spoke, did so on the condition of anonymity and narrating their ordeal was heartbreaking. One of the players who spoke said there is an issue of ‘lack of trust’ between them and the NFF.
“We don’t trust them (NFF),” she began. “This is our money and we must collect it before we leave this hotel as we do not trust them to pay us if we accepted their pleas.
“They want us to leave this hotel but we know those monies are gone the moment we agree to leave this place. They know it and we do too, so we’re staying put.”
Although, each of the players were paid the sum of N500,000 while still in Cameroon but they are having none of that as they say they are not even sure what the money is meant for.
“Yes they paid us N500, 000 each but what is that money for? It is not even close to what we are owed and they didn’t even explain what the money was meant for. That notwithstanding, we are determined to collect our full entitlements,” she maintained.
For the time being though, the players are still being fed at the hotel, as they regularly have their breakfast, lunch and dinner and in between, they walk and hang around the hotel without really doing much else and another player said she is disappointed at NFF boss, Amaju Pinnick.
She said: “We heard he came to Cameroon on a chartered flight and left immediately, we didn’t even see him.
“Now we hear he has traveled out of the country again, what kind of a leader is he? It has been one misfortune or the other since he came in and we are really disappointed.
“It’s more like he came with bad luck because since he came on board, our football has suffered both on and off the pitch and he doesn’t even seem to care.”
NFF general secretary Mohammed Sanusi met with the players on Tuesday and pleaded with them to understand their plight, blaming the situation on the current economic crisis in the country.
“I have come to appeal to you, to understand the situation of the Federation, to understand the situation of the country at the present and exercise patience.
“We will pay you all monies you are being owed as soon as we receive same from the Government, just as we paid the U17 boys who won the FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile last year, after the tournament. And just as we sorted out Coach Samson Siasia’s wages as soon as we had the funds, after the Olympics,” Sanusi was quoted in a statement released on Tuesday.
But it appears all that have fallen on deaf ears, as the players have now apparently ‘seized’ the AWCON trophy they won in Cameroon just last weekend.
“They asked us for the trophy but we are not giving them anything,” one of the players said.
“The trophy remains in our possession and we have seized it pending when they pay our monies. They think we’re fools or babies but we aren’t,” she said almost raising her voice.
As it stands, it remains unclear how the issue will be resolved or when they will be paid, but one of the players, one of the oldest in the group, says she regrets the fact they went ahead to play the final against Cameroon.
“We thought about boycotting that final match, but we decided to go ahead with it in the interest of the country hoping that winning it would change everything, but now I regret that we didn’t boycott that game.
“I believe we wouldn’t be having this discussion if we had threatened to boycott that game because our monies would have been released before we played,” she said ruefully.
Already, there have been reports the players plan to stage a street protest to press home their demands, and one of the players confirmed that it is something they are seriously considering.
“Yes, we have talked about it and it is something we would do if they don’t act fast. We have been reasonable enough, but we may choose to embarrass them if our entitlements are not settled,” she said.
It was also learnt that the players are planning to call a press conference before the end of the week if the issues were not addressed, but whether that happens or not, it has been one embarrassment too many for Nigerian football and this is the latest episode of national team players having a showdown with the NFF over unpaid bonuses and allowances.