• Thursday, February 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why players’ strike actions may derail the excitement at AFCON 2019

Super Eagles-traning

Just as football fans are enjoying the beautiful and exciting football actions at the ongoing Africa Cup Of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt, the news about teams boycotting the event over unpaid bonuses and allowances seems to take away the beautiful headlines from the tournament.

Just recently, Nigeria senior national team, the Super Eagles boycotted a training session in protest over unpaid bonuses owed them. The players had initially refused to train after not receiving a $10,000 match bonus that had been promised after winning Burundi in their opening game at AFCON. Reports also have it that the Nigerian team were not financially motivated against their game with Madagascar, where the lost 2-0.

This development did not go down well with Nigerian government, who frowned at the incessant protest by Nigerian players over non payment of bonuses and allowances, even after financial provisions have been made to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday expressed surprise that allowances of Nigeria’s national team, the Super Eagles had not received their allowances.

Plateau state governor Simon Lalong, disclosed that this despite the fact that the President had approved payment of the team allowances.

“Defeating Guinea and allowing Madagascar to defeat us is a surprise, but I think with good motivation, these boys would bring back the cup.

The government also warned against playing politics with football, which he described as “ a unifying factor in Nigeria”

“We should not joke with it, if they bring back the cup it will cement our relationship and that is one of it.

“Well, many of the concerns raised were that their allowances were not paid and Mr President expressed surprise that signed these allowance and wondered why they are not paid to them.

“I was a footballer, it’s not like before when you play football out of patriotism, now it’s combined with the economic aspect. When you bring people, definitely from the ministry, you must ensure that their allowances are paid. ”

Also, the Cranes of Uganda are the latest team at the Africa Cup of Nations to get embroiled in a dispute over payments.

The Cranes are through to the second round after finishing second in a group containing hosts Egypt and DR Congo. But their players boycotted training on Tuesday.

The country’s FA has said the players are trying to “renegotiate” their remuneration.

It is the fourth pay dispute to hit the tournament so far.

Recalled that the indomitable Lions of Cameroon arrived in Egypt late after an unresolved row over bonuses. The players had refused to travel for this year’s Africa Cup Of Nations, the same tactic they employed at the 2014 World Cup.

There were concerns that the opening game would not even happen after suggestions came from the Zimbabwe camp that the players had threatened to boycott the match against the hosts Egypt.

The argument here is that why do these strikes continually occur at every major football tournaments in Africa?

The way that payments work in tournaments is that the further a team goes, the greater the amount of money they receive. Thus, success in major championships has the potential to bring revenue to a country’s football federation.

In theory some of that money should end up with the players as bonus payments – they should also receive some money for qualifying.

For players based in major European leagues, those tournament payments are not necessarily a huge amount in comparison to their club wages.

England players donated their bonuses for their surprise run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup to charity.

But for players based in African leagues, those payments constitute a great deal of money.

Last season in Cameroon, not only bonuses, but also basic wages from the clubs were not being paid, forcing players across the country’s top divisions to stage a series of strikes.

Former captain Geremi Njitap filed a complaint direct to FIFA, which resolved the matter.

But the episode highlighted the important role that international appearance bonuses have for some players.

Some football associations have little accountability; others are opaquely managed – and even end up being suspended by FIFA.

Over time, players have grown deeply distrustful of the very football federations they are picked to represent.

By threatening not to play, players create a double bind for their countries. Not only would it be damaging for their image, it also would dramatically reduce any money that the FA would be looking to get themselves.

The tactic has proved effective over the years – having been employed by at least one African team at every World Cup since 1990.

In some cases, the country’s president has had to personally intervene in order save the nation from global embarrassment.

 

In Brazil in 2014 FIFA World Cup, $100,000 payments for Ghana were flown in, in cash in briefcases, and unloaded at the airport in Rio – where the Brazilian authorities took a 17% cut, before the money was sent out across the city to the players.

 

Anthony Nlebem