The bitter and shameful irresponsibility often expressed by the Nigeria Football Federation to female footballers has bared its hands again
Sleeping on cold airport floor in Turkey was the honour the NFF deemed immediately commensurate for the impressive performance of the Falconets at the Costa Rica 2022 Women’s U-20 World Cup.
The NFF once again has abandoned players and officials of the team to go through horrendous experiences. These are now known activities by the federation, either as a mark of gross irresponsibility or lack of coordination.
What is the story?
It has been a litany of trouble for the Falconets. While they played to taste and excited Nigerians who denied themselves of sleep to see them, they battled great challenges from the NFF.
These teenage sensations who got the world talking faced some of the worst conditions ever faced by any Nigerian national team. Their exposure to the ‘anyhowness’ of the Nigeria Football Federation is rather unfortunately early.
According to sources close to the team, players were provided with just three sets of the Nigerian green home kit and two sets of the white away kit.
While fans and commentators revered the jerseys, unknown to them, players had to wash them with their bare hands after every game. And this ensured they couldn’t exchange jerseys with players from other countries. That wasn’t the worst.
The NFF didn’t provide the girls with footwear despite having an official supplier for such kits and instead, asked the girls to spend their money to buy them.
Willing to make a mark in their careers and make the most of the platform the World Cup is, the players borrowed money to buy Nike footwear and football boots.
The NFF also failed to pay the agreed $100 daily allowance due the girls but instead paid $50, which the girls spent on these kits. They were paid no bonuses despite winning three games in the group stages.
Little wonder they were so excited when Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa promised to surprise them.
To think that’s not the end of the excruciating and embarrassing story
If the players thought their troubles were over, they were mistaken.
According to sources close to the team, the players and officials of the team barely had three hours to sleep after their loss to the Netherlands as they were asked to move to the airport to return to Nigeria immediately.
They left Costa Rica to Colombia from where they connected Istanbul.
“We’ve been on a trip to Nigeria since 6:30am Monday. We are currently sleeping at the Istanbul Airport awaiting a 6pm Wednesday flight Istanbul time to Abuja,” a source within the team was quoted as saying.
Officials of the team stated that tickets were booked for Avianca for Tuesday but the official carrier of Colombia rebooked to Turkish Air.
This caused a four-hour delay in Colombia and in addition to a stopover in Panama, the team missed the already scheduled Tuesday flight to Nigeria by 30 minutes, and due to no fault of theirs. Some players and officials of the team had different dates – 23rd and 24th August on their tickets.
Leader of the NFF delegation, Ruth David pleaded with the airline for hotel accommodation but her pleas fell on deaf ears because the players and officials had no transit visas. And the players were forced to wait 24 hours in the Turkish Airport, and slept on bare floor. By the time they depart Turkey for Nigeria on Wednesday, they’d have spent almost 30 hours at the airport.
And in Abuja…
The players are expected to depart Turkey on Wednesday and when they arrive Abuja, they will be paid a meagre N40,000 each to reconnect to their respective destinations.
If that’s the reward of playing and standing valiantly for Nigeria, one wonders how many will be willing to stick out their necks, or legs in the future.
What has the NFF said?
The football federation’s Director of Communications, Ademola Olajire explained that the players’ situation wasn’t a result of NFF’s negligence.
He revealed that the NFF did not book tickets for the Falconets and that world football governing body, FIFA did but didn’t include transit visas.
He said the delay faced in Panama was what affected the girls’ trip and they were taken to a sleeping area at the airport in Istanbul. He said Nigeria’s removal from the list of countries granted transit visas ensured that the girls were not given a hotel by the airport.
“For reason of setting the records straight, this is what happened. NFF DID NOT book tickets,” said Olajire.
“The World Cup is a FIFA tournament. FIFA booked tickets for the team to travel from Bogota to Panama, but for some reason, the flight to Panama was delayed for 3 hours.
“There was another 1 hour delay at the airport in Panama.By the time the team got to Istanbul, the flight to Abuja had left. The NFF officials pleaded that the team be given transit visas at the airport so they could head to a hotel in the town, but this was not possible as Nigeria had been removed from the list of countries granted transit visas at Istanbul Airport.
“So, the airline took the team to a sleeping area at the airport and handed them tickets to have meals after every 5 hours. It is is sad but this has nothing to do with NFF, who had made necessary arrangements to receive the team on arrival in Abuja before the flight hitches.”
Nigerians have been reacting to the incident and have expressed disappointment with what the Falconets have had to face in Turkiye.