Revisiting Incessant Strikes In Nigerian League
Lately, the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) has been plagued by continuous industrial action from players, who have severally complained of non-payment of their salaries and other entitlements.
Only last week, players of Warri Wolves down-tooled, citing non-payment of wages, which run into months, as their reason. The latest by the title contenders follows previous strike two months ago, where the players refused training, while citing similar reason.
In two months, Wolves players struck three times, blaming the club’s management for their woes.
Immediately after the week 31 matches, players and officials of Dolphins Football Club of Port Harcourt and their sister-clubs, Sharks, down-tooled following months of debt owed them.
According to captain of Dolphins, Festus ‘Agada’ Austin, players chose to stand their ground and may boycott the match-day 32 fixture against FC Ifeanyiubah on Sunday unless they are paid their outstanding wages.
“The players are resolute. We will not train and we will not play unless we receive alerts (of monies been paid) on our phones.
“On Sunday, we will not play against FC Ifeanyiubah and it will continue that way until the end of the season unless we are paid.”
His Sharks counterpart, Odinga Odinga, said. “We have downed tooled. We will not play again until our financial entitlements are paid.
“This (the Sharks versus Dolphins NPFL week 31 clash) is our last game this season unless something is done.”
In July, players of Rangers of Enugu abandoned training following the non-payment of their five months salaries and allowances by the state government. The players reported to training amid protested and vowed to abandon subsequent training sessions until their salaries and other entitlements. They were, however, pacified after much mediations.
Also in the same July, players of second-placed Sunshine Stars went on a five-day strike over unpaid salaries and allowances.
On Thursday, FC Taraba goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Obilo, lamented how the management of the Lafia-based side owes players over 11 months salary and other entitlements. He, however, expressed joy that the state government has averted what would have been an industrial action by promising to offset some of the monies this week.
The above scenarios capture the ugly part of what used to be a glamorous domestic league, which once produced the nation’s greats of yesteryears.
For instance, in the mid 80s, various stadia were already packed full one hour to the beginning of key fixtures involving Rangers, IICC, Stationery Stores, among others. Though money was not the main focus, the players were always taking care of.
As former Super Eagles coach, Adegboyega Onigbinde, rightly put it, the achievements of pre-independence era has floored the contemporary times of Nigerian football.
Commenting on this viz-a-viz the progress of the game as Nigeria marks 55 years of nationhood, the experienced coach said the nation has not gotten it right, blaming the authorities for what has befallen the domestic league.
Speaking to Daily Independent, Heartland of Owerri Media Officer, Cajetan Nkwopara, blamed poor organisation for the incessant strikes in the domestic league. To him, the local league has not been administered professionally.
“The issue is a sad one and I want to blame it on the various authorities managing various clubs,” he said.
“It does not start now, but has been there for a long time. Some of these players are bread winners in their homes and there is no way they can be playing with empty stomach; it is really sad.”
Also condemning the huge monies owed players, coach of Dolphins FC of Port Harcourt, Stanley Eguma, said much as he wants his players to turn up for training, it is very sad that they have to play without money.
He begged the various club managements to come to the aid of the players, who are the main stakeholders of their various clubs.
“I will never support a situation where players are owed backlog of salaries; in that situation, you will hardly get the best from them. I will only beg various heads of clubs to come to the aid of these players.”
But former Eagles midfielder, Mutiu Adepoju, has a different idea to it. To him, until Nigeria goes full professional and allows private sectors to own these clubs with huge tax waiver, there may be no end in sight.
“Sincerely, Nigerian league is not professionally run. We should allow capable investors to come in and we provide some incentives in the form of tax waiver to them.
“It is only when such is done that the whole thing will turn real business and the players will be getting what is due to them. As long as various state governments still manage these clubs, the politicians may not see the real reason to develop the game at the club level,” he said.
Meanwhile, an Enyimba player, who does not want his name in print, while speaking to Daily Independent, has one advice for various state governments, including Abia State:
“If you cannot sustain these clubs, dissolve them and let Nigeria be the only country in the world without a football league.”