Not only did the team emerge African champions for a record ten times, five of its players including tournament highest goal scorer, Azeezat 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 power house 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 (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick and other board members, including Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau. The team is now in Abuja, where the players expect that Sports Minister 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 totaling $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 Cameroun for the tournament. Indeed, it was alleged that it was due to the persuasion of the team’s Chief Coach, Omagbemi that the players were able to concentrate on winning the championship.
As usual, the NFF blamed the untidy situation on lack of funding.
It is, however, instructive to note that the Sports minister and his entourage consisting of top Sports Ministry officials and NFF chieftains were ferried to Yaoundé to watch the final match in a chartered flight. Definitely, such luxurious travelling arrangement does not portray a Federation or Sports ministry that is experiencing 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 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 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 Camerounian 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 are 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 are 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 soccer trade abroad ought to have returned to their respective bases. But they are hanging around due to the whole issue of nonpayment of their outstanding entitlements.
In as much as it remains a rare honour for anyone to represent the 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 reoccurrence 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 messy business. If pubic officials are not denied their estacodes while of 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 did 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 would be willing to leverage on the Falcons success. All the NFF needs to do is to be better organized, transparent and pro active.
Going cup in hands, all the time, to beg for fund 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 Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.