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One of the first reactions when players or coaches pass on in Nigeria, especially high profile ones, is to blame the Nigeria Football Federation for not taking care of those who served the nation.

Last week's double tragedy of losing both Stephen Keshi and Amodu Shuaibu, provided yet another opportunity for NFF bashing to add to a recent story of the abandonment of the Kate Rashidi Yekini and his family.

After Amodu's death, it emerged that he was being owed wages. Former international Idah Peterside revealed on Twitter that the late coach had told him a few days to his death, that he was owed 7 month's wages as NFF Technical Director.

NFF General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi countered by claiming it was two months wages, same as was being owed other members of the federation's secretariat team.

Seven month, two months, it matters little. But provided further fuel for a fire that continues to be stoked regardless.

Without a doubt, and while there may be extenuating circumstances, the NFF must and should take responsibility for paying its staff wages on time. The consequences of not doing so, within a regulatory system which oversees an ecosystem where match-fixing is an ever present danger with potentially far reaching effects, can be dangerous.

But that is where the point of convergence with blaming the NFF ends. And where that of holding the players and coaches association to account begins.

Contrary to popular opinion, the federation is not responsible for either the welfare or well-being of past players and coaches. Its responsibility is to oversee and regulate football within its territory and organise matches for the country's representative teams.

Those other responsibilities fall within the purview of the player and coaches associations. These two bodies, unfortunately, have fallen short of meeting their obligations. 

For years, there was sharp and bitter division between the National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF) and the breakaway NFF-recognised Association of Professional Footballers of Nigeria (APFON).

This splintering meant that players had no real representation, with both bodies consumed by the battle for survival. As a result, even the serving players trusted neither enough to want to be associated with them.

During my time as Nigeria Officer, I remember APFON official Austin Popo come into the team camp to give out membership forms for the players to fill. Not many took it seriously and the majority of those forms were left behind at the hotel.

While the story with the coaches association was not one of division, there is a clear lack of distinct strategy.

A recent report stated that 70 per cent of Nigerian coaches are hypertensive. Although the veracity of that figure is questionable, there is little doubt that health care should take priority among past players and coaches.

And this is where the respective associations, and not the NFF, must play their part. They can do so by first unifying their respective bodies, a process that has thankfully already begun, especially with NANF and APFON.

Next step should be identifying the core needs of their members. Past experience suggests that healthcare would top that list of needs. Which means that their next step should be to develop strategic partnerships with health care providers in the country, and ensure that their members make the regular, mandatory contributions that guarantees them effective coverage.

And then there is the issue of wages. Clubs and the national federation are guilty of owing wages. So far, only the League Management Company have taken concrete steps to ensure that players and coaches get paid.

Rather than continue to be paper tigers that snarl on occasion, both the players union and coaches association must present one strong, unified voice to ensure their members are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Blaming the NFF at every turn has not and will not help.

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  1. 'Seven month, two months, it matters little'. Really ? It would matter to me who needs to feed my son DAILY !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it matters little bros. What matters, as the next para states, is that the employee (in this case the NFF, ensure that staff wages get paid. On time.

      Delete
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