Reports last week brought to light an appalling situation that saw Taraba FC players physically assaulted by soldiers attached to the State Government House in Jalingo. This happened during a peaceful protest to demand the payment of arrears of eleven months in wages owed by Management or more explicitly, the Taraba State Government.
This development was viewed by football stakeholders as disturbing, placing Nigerian football back in the dark ages, where the welfare and security of players cannot be guaranteed. Who will take responsibility of this?
The Taraba FC Media Officer, Martin Odiete spoke exclusively to POST NIGERIA and lamented the ugly situation as he blamed the League Management Company, LMC, for not standing up to its responsibility, adding that the situation would have been averted if the sanctions were given to clubs for failing to meet up with the ultimatums given to them.
“LMC was playing lip service with this issue; those ultimatums were not serious ultimatums because if you give an ultimatum, after the expiration of the ultimatum, you issue punishment.
“But when it’s expired you give more room again, you give excuses why you are extending it, until the league ended. So what kind of ultimatum are you talking about?”
Odiete stated that the duty of the LMC which is to protect the interest of the players and club had been relegated.
“That is why every Nigerian player wants to leave abroad to go and play because they are not guaranteed good livelihoods here. You see our Premier League players begging up and down because they are not paid as at when due and the LMC is claiming they are doing well.
“You can’t claim you are doing well when the participants of the league are not doing well. Until they succeed in that area, LMC cannot say they have succeeded in anything.
“If clubs are not ready to pay players, they should not run league. They should go out odd. How can you keep people’s children, fathers to come and play for you and you don’t pay them and there is a bard you call LMC regulating our league? What are you regulating?”
He lamented the lack of active sponsorship and claimed that the system by the government to give tax rebates to companies who invested in sports had been abused.
“The corporate bodies in Nigeria are not responding. They are ambush marketers. They wait until the U17 go and win the World Cup and come back before they place their banners and identify. But while the team was preparing, where were they? That’s why I said they are ambush marketers,” he added
Globacom telecommunications was not spared in his tongue lashing as he accused the company of essentially instituting an unhealthy system of zero competition.
“Glo used political might as an indigenous company to stop MTN. Etisalat wanted to sponsor the Nigerian Women League, Glo stopped them saying they were in charge of Nigerian league.
“So Globacom is one of the people killing Nigerian football but nobody is talking about it. Government must be proactive to stop this recklessness.”
POST NIGERIA has gone over how another club, Enyimba FC lamented the trend of big companies in Nigeria, ignoring domestic clubs and seeking partnerships with foreign ones instead.
Responding to the allegations, the LMC Chief Operating Officer, Salihu Abubakar claimed much has been done including seminars to enlighten clubs on how to gets sponsorship but clubs have not taken advantage of the opportunities that have been given them.
“Club sponsorship is the responsibility of the club itself. There is no much we can do for the club. These windows are open to them. They are supposed to exploit all revenue generation schemes to get money for the club, unfortunately, they sit and rely on the government.”
He listed clubs incluidng Sharks FC, Sunshine Stars, Shooting Stars, Enyimba and Warri Wolves who secured sponsorship deals in the just concluded season. “So nobody forecloses them from having sponsors. They have to make more efforts, pursue them and tell them of the benefits of associating with you,” he said.
He however, maintained that steps have been taken to ensure the players are paid as soon as possible.
“What we do is not sporting punishment but we have imposed sanction on Taraba, we are withholding all their financial gains from sponsorships, performance benefits and so on and that money will be paid directly to the players.”
The Taraba State Government has not bothered to offer an explanation for this shame. The club finished second from bottom in the just concluded season, besting only the abysmal Bayelsa United. Their relegation woes are far from isolated with this debacle. For a team struggling so much when will the Nigerian game step up to its responsibilities?