Not quite long ago, there was this statement from the managers of our football league that the Nigerian Premier League was the best in Africa. Many questioned the veracity of such a position and if true, the criteria used in judging the various league across Africa.
Their questions ranged from the kind of pitches the Nigeria league matches are played on to the professionalism of the system, but I don’t think they got answers for their questions.
Most of the Nigerian clubs are mere appendages of government ministries or outright propaganda outfit for the various State Governors to massage their ego and make the people believe they are performing.
Players are never engaged professionally nor do they ever get to receive their salaries as at when due. Sign-on fees are always a problem as they keep getting promises. At times it takes the players going on strike for their money to be paid them.
Players of a couple of clubs engaged in continental assignments have embarked on a work-to-rule action to press home their demand for unpaid sign-on fees or accumulated bonuses on the eve of the continental assignments. The result, of course, was that they got knocked out of the competition.
One then wonders the manner of professional league we run in this country. It is not difficult to say then that players who emerge from the Nigerian league are naturally gifted players who made it through sheer determination to succeed and not as result of the so-called ‘goodness’ of the Nigerian league.
It has taken the issue of Sunday Mba to expose the true nature of the Nigerian league, amateurish to put it mildly. Otherwise why would two clubs be claiming ownership of a player when there are supposed to be records kept on his transfer by three parties, the league organisers, the losing club and the receiving club?
While the Warri Wolves management is claiming he belongs to them on the release of mere papers which neither discloses the signature of the club losing him nor an authentic document from its secretariat, the so-called contract paper is not the official letter of Warri Wolves. The writing does not look like that of two persons agreeing on something.
The document also stated the basic salary is N100,000 per month but did not state the commencement date. We are told Mba signed it but his signature does not appear anywhere on the paper in circulation. We were also told that his sign-on fee was N500,000 but no mention was made whether it has been fully paid. Warri Wolves spokesman Moses Etu said Mba was allowed to go back to Rangers because they did not want to scuttle his career. Good. If you allowed him go back to Rangers before the Nations Cup when Stephen Keshi had not named his final list of 23 players, it meant that you were not bothered about him because you were not too sure he would make the team or because you didn’t reckon with him as a player you should hold on to.
Even when he finally made the final Nations Cup list, Warri Wolves did not identify with him or others it said belonged to them in the squad. Mba’s sudden popularity started after his goal helped send the dreaded Cote d’Ivoire out of the Nations Cup.
The scramble over who really owns Mba caught fire after his lone strike gave the Eagles the Nations Cup trophy for the third time in history. The rush by Delta State government to reward the Eagles and particularly players of Delta origin or of Warri Wolves could be traced to the urge to claim that it contributed more to the Nations Cup glory than any other state in the country.
Precedence exist here where some Delta State officials were quick to claim that the State contributed more to the training of Team Nigeria athletes to the last London 2012 Olympics. This position was used to campaign against the National Sports Commission, NSC simply because some Delta State sports administrators wanted to get back at the Director General, Chef Patrick Ekeji who refused their call to allow an Open National Sports Festival so they could used elite athletes based in the United States and Europe.
Let it be known to Delta, Enugu and Rivers States that their involement in this ugly scenario is rubbishing whatever gains the Nigerian league may have gained from the exploits of Mba and other home-based players in the victorious Super Eagles squad.
The earlier they put their greed behind and resolve this matter, the better for the image of the country and the future of Maba and all other players in the Nigerian league hoping to have a break-through in their career through the senior national team.
On a final note, when will the NFF stop treating Nigerian coaches with disdain? When will our local coaches be paid as at when due like their foreign counterparts. Like it was with Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasia, Christian Chukwu and lately Stephen Keshi, so it is with Flying Eagles handler, John Obuh who had to protest as he was set to lead out his team to a competition before getting part of his unpaid salary. When will this disgrace stop?