It was a show of shame of a gargantuan proportion yesterday in the city of Akure as angry, hungry, dejected and frustrated looking players of Sunshine Stars and Sunshine Queens of the NPFL and Nigerian Female Professional League.
The supposed professional football teams of Ondo State, poured out in their large numbers, stormed and barricaded the road to the Government House in Alagbaka, Akure for the non-payment of their salaries, allowances and match bonuses. The players angrily, bitterly and frustratingly lamented that they’ve not been paid for 7 months, despite still playing games.
The angry looking staffs of the Ondo State Football Agency (ODSFA) also joined in the protest as they also complained that they’ve not been paid their salaries for the past 13 months. Even after they were promised that their money would be cleared before February 15. But the deadline was not met, as usual.
The protesters vehemently blocked the road leading to the Government House of the out-going Governor Olusegun Mimiko, with many of them bearing placards with different inscriptions, fiercely pressing for their salaries, allowances and match bonuses to be paid. This is the second protest the players would be staging in 11 days.
Some of the players interviewed lamented that as bad as it is, they are so broke that they couldn’t afford to pay for hospital bills or get drugs for their sick family members and that they’ve been playing on empty stomachs all these while, feeding on hand to mouth. They also said the State Government have been dribbling them for so long.
The players said the State Government often charge them to win the league title and also qualify for the CAF Champions League, but questioned and wondered how the government thought that would be possible when they are not being paid for 7 months and playing with empty stomachs.
Sunday Abe, who is the captain of Sunshine Stars of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) led the protest in Akure. When briefly interviewed, Sunday said:
“We are here to fight for our right. I and my colleague have 7-month outstanding salaries stuck in only where God knows. Now they said we should go meet the Accountant General of the State. We have been deceived and betrayed by the authorities repeatedly,” he explained.
The players threatened to pull out of the NPFL games and said henceforth, they won’t train for matches. They also said they won’t play their upcoming game against Rivers United on Sunday, and won’t leave the protest venue until they get firm assurances that their money would be paid before Friday.
This is most unfortunate and also a shame. How can players of professional football teams be owed salaries for a whopping 7 months and staffs of the State Football Agency, 13 months?
How do they expect them to survive? Yet they’re asking the teams to do well and win the league. Na so dem dey win league? The non-payment of these players’ salaries, allowances and match bonuses has already been reflecting on the results of the NPFL matches Sunshine Stars have been playing since the beginning of this season.
They’ve been finding it difficult to get home wins in Akure, often drawing their games like ogbono soup and even lost to MFM FC of Lagos at home. But in spite of all these, the players have been trying their possible best to grind out fair results. If the state government know they cannot operate and maintain the football clubs, then they should sell it off. It is not a must that they should own football clubs.
There are wealthy and willing football loving businessmen or women who will be interested in purchasing and maintaining the clubs. The State Government should get the players paid without further delay because they have the money. This show of shame must stop!
By: Ayoola Tope