The road to Brazil By Ade Ojeikere

Super Eagles’ team is not a casino where gamblers revel in pulling the one-arm bandit machine for a bountiful harvest. The act of gambling is not as easy as just pulling the machine’s arm.

There are gambling rules. If you don’t have the machine’s playing dice, “nothing for you.” You cannot dip your hands into the wallet and insert any coin. It won’t work.

Each player and coach in the Super Eagles must be told what they will earn at every stage of the Mundial to avoid the show-of-shame that happened in Namibia during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

Curiously, the scene in Windhoek, Namibia, where Eagles stars refused to board the aircraft secured for Nigeria by the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) to fly the players and officials to Brazil for the 2013 Confederations Cup arose when the players insisted that they must be paid $10,000 for beating Namibia, through a nail-biting 1-0 victory.

The Federal Government constituted a panel headed by Segun Adeniyi to draw up a Code of Conduct for the Eagles to avoid a repeat of the shameful incident. The Adeniyi-led committee has submitted its recommendations, which Sports Minister Bolaji Abdulahi has handed over to the NFF for implementation.

Match-winning bonuses have been a contentious issue since the 1998 World Cup in France, where our players met with NFA chiefs for three days, negotiating how much they should be paid before the game against Demark, which the Danes won by 4-1.

Indeed, the players were paid $15,000 each before the game against Denmark, largely because they had envisaged that Nigeria will whip the Danes and meet Brazil in the quarter-finals. Pundits had tagged the match that never was a revenge tie, following Nigeria’s U-23 side’s 3-2 semi-finals victory over their Brazilian counterparts in one of the soccer matches at the Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games.

Why have we found it difficult to present a package to the Eagles for them to either accept or reject? After all, the other 31 countries take part in the World Cup without rancour and where they exist, punishments are meted out to the culprits based on written agreements before the Mundial begins.

For us to understand why other climes transit from one World Cup event to another irrespective of their results, there is the need to state that their leagues serve as the launching pad for picking most of their players, although with a few big ones coming from other developed leagues in Europe. With this setting, there are no big names. No idols. And such World Cup camping serves as a platform for the discovery new of stars.

The reverse is the case with Nigeria. The domestic league is in dire straits, except for the innovations which the Nduka Irabor-led League Management Committee ((LMC) has introduced in the last one year. The Super Eagles is not a reflection of our local league. This unfair tilt makes Europe-based players feel as if they are doing Nigeria a favour while playing for this great country. Besides, they always give the impression as if their career didn’t start on Nigeria’s dusty streets.

It is, therefore, heartwarming that the Namibia incident has produced the Code of Conduct document where all issues are addressed and decisions taken. Our players are used to rules in their European clubs. So, there is nothing new in this.

But the clincher in the Code of Conduct is that the players will be told that they will earn $5000 winning bonus. Will the players accept this? Interesting. But that is the reason for the dialogue between them and the NFF.

Happily, the Aminu Maigari-led NFF has chosen to go the way of others where intricate matters are documented after decisions have been reached by the contending parties. And it is a welcome development. One hopes that our nosey bigwigs in Abuja do not jeopardise the code when the Eagles start to dazzle the world. What one is saying here is that no highly-placed person in government should lead any delegation to Brazil and try to lord it over the NFF. When that happens, the powers of the football chiefs are whittled and indiscipline creeps in because the boys know who to run to.

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