Cyril C. NwokejiTuesday, October 29, 2013




read with interest and at the same time utmost dismay, news of the non-payment of Stephen Keshi's salary, and those of his assistants, for several months! This is very unfortunate not only from the point of view of the coaches concerned, but also from the point of view of our struggle to qualify for Brazil 2014. How can those coaches concentrate fully to give us the much needed ticket to Brazil? The agreement signed by Keshi and the NFF, in 2011, stipulates among other conditions: prompt payment of the coaches' salaries as at when due; and of course the meeting -up of the expectations of the NFF, by the coaches, failure of which would result in the breaking-up of the agreement. Stephen Keshi and the technical crew, have so far met these expectations, while the NFF, are somewhat defaulting on their's. Who is now at fault? Should the contract be ruptured now, as a consequence ?

It must be noted that the non-payment of coaches' salaries, as at when due, has become a recurring decimal, in the relationship of the NFF with some of the indigenous coaches, past and present. Coaches like: Amodu Shaibu, Christian Chukwu, Augustine Eguavoen and John Obu, have at one time or the other been owed salary arrears. In the recent past, Coach John Obu, refused to travel with the Flying Eagles, to the African championship, earlier in the year over this same issue. It took the intervention of the NFF, that paid a part of his salary arrears, before he travelled to the African Championship, in Morocco. At that Championship he was supposed to get the world cup ticket, which he got; even with a partial payment of his salary arrears. What a way to motivate a coach! It was also reported in the press that at the final preparatory stages, for the U-20 world cup, in Germany, Coach Obuh complained of the sleepless nights he was having, meeting -up to the financial challenges of his family, as a consequence of the non-payment of the rest of his salary arrears, by the NFF. What a way to help a coach concentrate fully as well as motivate him, for a very vital assignment ,like the Under-20 world cup championship! When Coach Obuh, failed at the world championship, he didn't need to be persuaded to leave his job, he volountarily resigned ; by so doing kept his side of the agreement; but the NFF, that owed him and may be owes him months of salary arrears, 'walked away ,' free, without taking any responsibility whatsoever for their partial defaulting of the 'covenant' reached with Coach Obuh, at the inception of his job.

The pertinent question, to be asked at this juncture is: has defaulting in the payment of indigenous coaches' salaries become an acceptable way of working with the NFF? If that is so, this 'new conditionality,' should be taken-up ,in the agreement with the coaches, at the inception of their coaching responsibilty; and this should also be the case with the foreing coaches who sometimes work for the NFF.

This brings me to another aspect of the NFF's working relationship, with certain coaches - foreign coaches - who don't suffer this unfortunate fate as their indigenous counter parts. Why is it that the NFF, doesn't default in the payment of salaries of foreign coaches, who earn more princely salaries than their Nigerian counterparts? Are there two NFFs? One for the indigenous coaches and the other for the foreign coaches? If there is only one NFF, as we think is the case, where does the NFF get money to pay the foreign coaches as at when due, while failing to do same for their indigenous counter parts? The answer to this question may be that, the NFF, sometimes gets help from corporate organizations vis - a-viz payment of salaries of foregn coaches; why can't the same be done for indigenous coaches? One recounts the whopping 1.5 million US dollars spent for a six month contract, with the Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, for the failed 2010, world cup adventurism, in South Africa; money which with benefit of hindsight, was thrown into the dustbin, for what to all practical intents and purposes was a misconceived adventure. Nigeria, paid-up, as at when due; the NFF, notwithstanding Lagerback's failure, even went ahead, to offer the Swede a four year contract, to rebuild the Super Eagles! When the NFF, made this offer, they were well aware of the princely salary demands of the Swede, yet were ready to offer him a four year contract! Where would they have gotten money to pay,given their so -called financial- dire- straits situation? It is on record that the Swede, Lagerback, was the most expensive of the foreign coaches interviewd for the Super Eagles' job, in 2010; that notwithstanding, he was employed and promptly paid as at when due ; and not withstanding his failure was offered a new four year contract, to the bargain !

On the other hand, this same NFF, finds it difficult paying the relatively 'measly' salary of this patriotic Nigerian - Stephen Keshi - who has so far been successfull in trying to put the Super Eagles on the world soccer map again. A job which entails crisp-crossing the nooks and cranies of Nigeria, as well as the world, in search of the best possible legs for the Super Eagles; as oppossed to some of the foreign coaches, who merely jetted in and- out of the country in the performance of their hugely paid for jobs, while leaving their Nigerian assisstants to do the 'dirty job' of crisp, crossing Nigeria. A job which entails occassionally coming in collision with the NFF, as a consequence of a relative lack of respect for Keshi : the NFF vetting his list of players; the NFF, forcing certain players on him ; as oppossed to the foreign coaches who are treated with much more respect. One can go on and on with examples of these shameful disparities .

In conclusion, one is using this medium, in appealing to the NFF, in the national interest, to put an end to this national embarassement, by promptly settling the salary arrears of Stephen Keshi and his assisstants, thereby enabling them to concentrate fully on the huge task ahead - defeating Ethiopia, in Calabar, come 16th November. If this would entail, getting external help, the NFF,should not fail to exploit this possibilty, in the interim; while we wait for the NFF, to put it's house in order. One believes that a properly run NFF, can conveniently, meet it's financial challenges.