Morale is low in the camp of the national U-23 side following the non-payment of their pre-Olympics camping allowances by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development, a development that has forced the players to boycott yesterday’s training session ahead of tonight’s quarter-final clash with Denmark.
Despite a bumpy ride to Rio, Nigeria rolled to two straight victories against Japan and Sweden, but lost their final group B match to Colombia which was not enough to stop them from qualifying for the first knock-out stage as group winners.
But no sooner had the dust from their last match settled did the players start complaining over unpaid allowances owed them during the pre-Olympic camping period in Nigeria and Atlanta, where they were subjected to the worst form of neglect by the Ministry of Sports, the body supposedly responsible for the preparations of Nigerian athletes for the Olympic Games.
Their coach, Samson Siasia sourced for sponsors to fund the team’s trip to Atlanta and while there, had to use his contacts to get the team going as they were only entitled to bed and breakfast, meaning they had to source for their lunch and dinner. When their plight was brought to his attention, the Sports Minister, Solomon
Dalung said he was not aware that the team were in Atlanta. He disowned them, saying they went there on their own but was later reported to have visited them in camp.
It turned out to be all lies as he never visited them but authorised a press release to be issued to that effect. The ministry paid 11 days of their stay in Rio but is yet to pay for their more than 30 days camping, prompting the players to boycott training ahead of tonight’s decisive tie with the Danes, who hope to make the most of the disarray in the camp of the Eagles in tonight’s make or break clash.
The thinking of the players is that such boycott would make the authorities in Nigeria compel the Sports Ministry to pay them their outstanding allowances before the match against Denmark but recent history suggests that the players are digging their grave, as evident in Eagles capitulations at the last Confederations Cup and World Cup in Brazil, when the players skipped training in protest for the release of their allowances. They failed and lost their matches each time they did so. But they had their money.
An impeccable source with the team said that “the players refused to practice today (yesterday) because they believe that the people concerned are not showing interest about their problems.
“Since we got to Brazil, nothing has happened. When we were in camp in Nigeria, nothing happened. In Atlanta nothing happened. Now that we are nearing the end of the Olympics, nothing has happened. It is terrible that nothing has been paid outside the 11 days”, added our source.
The coaches are also being owed salary for five months.