Falcons plan protest, World Cup boycott as NFF cancels bonuses

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The Super Falcons are planning to stage a strike and boycott their opening game of the 2023 Women’s World Cup after the General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation Dr Mohammed Sanusi told them their match bonuses for the competition had been cancelled by the federation.

A camp source said the decision was taken after six senior players — captain Onome Ebi, Rasheedat Ajibade, Asisat Oshoala, Ohale Osinachi, Tochukwu Oluehi and Desire Oparanozie — held a lengthy meeting on arrival at the Mercure Resorts, Gold Coast, following Sanusi’s announcement.

“We are going ahead to press for our demands,” a senior player told The PUNCH. “We are ready to go as far as missing our first game against Canada July 21 because this has to stop.

“On Wednesday night, we held a meeting where we agreed that we were going to find out if what we were asking for is legitimate, and that if it’s legitimate, we will press for our demands. It was what was agreed. The next meeting will be after we get the information we need and then the protest will start.”

It was learnt that shortly before the Nigerian contingent departed Abuja for Australia July 2, Sanusi, during a meeting with the players, told them that they would not be paid match bonuses by the federation, since FIFA had already announced that every player would get $30,000 in the group stage of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

He also announced that the players would no longer be given 30 per cent from the $1,560,000 FIFA grant to all member associations for the group stage of the competition

Our source said  the players were stunned “after Sanusi landed the sucker punch.”

“The General Secretary came for the meeting clutching so many papers; he told us that we won’t be paid match bonuses at the World Cup because FIFA had already given each player $30,000 for the group stage. He also said we won’t get 30 per cent from the $1,560,000 FIFA would give the NFF.

“We were shocked, team morale went down immediately because we couldn’t believe what the man was saying,” our source said.

“One of the oldest players in the team asked him if FIFA would deduct the money ($30,000) they would give us from the $1.5m they gave the federation but he (Sanusi) said no. So, she said if its like that, then it shouldn’t affect our match bonuses. After several minutes of argument, Sanusi asked us if we would have preferred the $9,000 match bonus or the $30,000 from FIFA.”

Our source dismissed reports that American team coach Randy Waldrum had instigated the players to stage “a coup” against the federation.

“That’s not true, it’s a ploy to distract Nigerians from the truth. Randy has no hand in this. We’ve been suffering this maltreatment and injustice long before he took charge of the team. When the team revolted after the 2018 WAFCON and the 2019 World Cup, was Randy with us? We are fighting a good cause, we don’t need anyone to push us. They should allow the coach do his job.

“Since the federation is treating us like this, we have decided to stage a protest before the competition begins, so that the whole world will know what we are passing through. We can’t keep suffering and smiling.

“At the last World Cup, the same thing happened and we were shortchanged, we won’t allow this to happen any longer. They dare not treat the Super Eagles like this. Is it because we are women? We must put a stop to this this time around.”

NFF president Ibrahim Gusau and Sanusi did not respond to telephone calls on the matter, while they also didn’t reply to the text and WhatsApp messages sent to their phones as of the time of filing this report.

It’s not the first time the Falcons would be involved in a bonus row at an international tournament.

The record African champions refused to travel back home after winning the 2004 WAFCON in South Africa, insisting they were paid their bonuses first.

In 2016, after returning from Cameroon with an eighth WAFCON trophy, they also staged a sit-in protest at their Abuja hotel to press home their claims for each player to be paid $16,500 after their triumph.

Striker Desire Oparanozie was stripped of her captaincy and banished from the team after she led a bonus protest at the 2019 World Cup in France, while the squad also boycotted training sessions ahead of their third-place clash agains Zambia at last year’s WAFCON in Morocco over same issue.

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