IKENWA NNABUOGOR laments the raw deal players in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) face when they ought to be the main assets of the competition…
The major dramatis personae in the round leather game are the players, but in the Nigerian local league, coaches take the driver’s seat in terms of good pay, respect, affluence and presidential treatment, players settle for crumbs.
In truth, players, whom are supposed to be kingly treated just like elsewhere where football is seen as massive business, are seen as “passengers” in the game where everything is supposed to be revolved around them.
This is indeed strange to other climes where players put the mouths where their monies are and this situation does not seem to change in Nigeria in near future.
All football stakeholders have lived with this abnormality and decried the sorry situation concerning Nigerian local league players and wondered where we got it wrong.
In major climes where football is big business, players are the principal actors and are treated as much because without the players, there’s clearly no football.
Individuals, corporate bodies, governments, businessmen invest good money in football mainly because of players and not the coaches. Players bring in the money for these investors through revenues from players’ transfers, sponsorships, image rights and endorsements.
In Europe, football is truly a massive business.
Michael Pederson, a soccer agent from Denmark, threw more light on how football clubs are run in Europe.
“Hardly do individuals own clubs in Europe and so clubs are purely investments as stakeholders invest heavily in them,” he lectured.
“Here in Denmark, the clubs belong to the communities and they see the clubs as their own and not government-owned as it is in Africa especially.
“As long as the communities continue to keep the clubs alive, the clubs will continue to run.”
It’s indeed surprising why coaches in the local league earn more money than the players, live more comfortably, cruise in luxury cars with other perks of office including the fast women, while the players pick the crumbs.
Incredibly added to this, the players are owed salaries, allowances and sign on fees and they live at the mercy of the club management who decide their fate as regards payment of their entitlements.
Sadly, players live at the mercies of these mega coaches and most times their successes are tied to the whims and caprices of these coaches.
Bad news if a player is in the coaches’ bad books. The said player could reach the pinnacle of his career when he moves abroad to be appreciated by the better professionally run leagues that are player-oriented.
The local league coaches command respect, clout, connection as they have direct access to government, which are 95% owners of football clubs in Nigeria.
Coaches, most times, negotiate directly with the governors of the states that own the clubs and get mouth-watering offers, while the players’ entitlements are decided by club management who are mostly not football people, and only find themselves in these positions via political appointments.
Worse still, it’s an open secret that players still share part of their entitlements with the club officials and the coaches who brought them and should they fail to “play” ball, they will not get to be signed after all.
Former governor and soccer loving Orji Uzor Kalu was the first governor to negotiate directly with a player when he paid Emeka “Ayaya” Nwanna N1 million to snatch the Aba-born star from Rangers in 2002.
Impressive as that move may seem, but that is still criminally a far from what coaches negotiate and get paid by these clubs.
What about accommodation? Nigerian players are the worse hit!
The players who are seen as national figures by the fans who throng the stadiums to watch their idols, are quartered in club camps while the coaches live cozily in government-sponsored flats or hotels. Local league players deserve respect!
This is sharp contrast to what obtains on Europe or elsewhere, where players are better quartered in nice apartments or in hotels.
The earlier we realize that the players are the main actors in the beautiful game, the better for the players, otherwise, they will continue to play servants to their masters – the coaches.
In Europe and elsewhere, clubs are owned by communities, not governments, and are financed by the millions of the members of the community.
It’s not the case here sadly… Things will continue this way as long as the government keeps owning clubs and the players will continue to play second fiddle.