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Wafcon 2022: Nigeria boycott over bonuses 'embarrassing' - Rachael Ayegba

BY: BBC
Defending champions Nigeria were knocked out of this year's Wafcon by hosts Morocco after a semi-final penalty shootout

It is "embarrassing" to see Nigeria's women's team stage a boycott over the non-payment of both bonuses and allowances once again says former international Rachael Ayegba.

On Wednesday, the Super Falcons squad refused to leave their hotel rooms to train ahead of Friday's Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) third-place play-off against Zambia.

"I'm really surprised and disappointed at the same time because I expected the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to have gone past this situation by now," Ayegba told BBC Sport Africa.

"Because this [has been happening] over 18-20 years, yet we are still dealing with the same situation. The same thing happened to the team in the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, and now the girls are boycotting the training.

"For me, it's embarrassing to see that nothing has changed. I saw it on social media and was dismayed and disappointed. I'm really ashamed."

Goalkeeper Ayegba was part of Nigeria's 2004 Wafcon-winning side who staged a sit-in in their hotel in South Africa in a bid to be paid their dues, while she was also part of the 2007 Women's World Cup squad that also had to protest to get their money.

The same scenario was repeated in 2016, shortly after Nigeria won the eighth of their record nine continental titles, and even the 2019 Women's World Cup witnessed yet another sit-in protest over unpaid salaries and bonuses.

Despite the shame which she believes such incidents bring her nation, Ayegba says the Super Falcons squad have no other option if they are to receive their financial allocations.

"When you go to work, you expect to be paid - so for me, this is the only way for the players," she explained.

"Because they know if they don't do this right now and the competition is then over, the money is gone. So unfortunately, the players have to keep doing this."

NFF and government 'dealing with issues'

Each Super Falcons player in Morocco is entitled to a $100 daily allowance, $3,000 for each group stage win - with Nigeria winning twice in Group C - and $1,500 for a draw.

Following a recent payment review, the players can also expect $5,000 for their win in the quarter-final, but they will miss out on proposed payments of $7,000 and $10,000 for victories in the semi-final and final respectively.

NFF president Amaju Pinnick told BBC Sport Africa on Wednesday that his organisation is "dealing with the issue" - but funds need to come from the country's Sports Ministry before any payment can be made.

A special adviser to the minister of sports Sunday Dare said the "issues are being resolved" and the team has received verbal assurances that they will be paid.

"The biggest problem is different administrations, [but the] same situation - why is it still happening?" Ayegba the first African goalkeeper to play in the European champions league, said.

"Why not deal with the issue (beforehand)? We just embarrass our nation, just for the fact that some people decide to be irresponsible in dealing with situation like this.

"I'm speechless, because I don't even know how to think about this situation right now. Thinking about the last 20 years and the same situation, the same scene, it's like you're living your life again.

"Why Nigeria? It's not that we're not capable, it's not that we don't have the money. You're supposed to pay the allowances and the match bonuses. Why do they have to fight for these things?

"These girls, they are giving their all, they keep giving their all. You saw the last game against the host nation, even the fact they were two players down, they fought to the end. What else do you want these girls to do?"

Some have suggested the Super Falcons - who took their semi-final against hosts Morocco to penalties despite playing nearly an hour with only nine players - could boycott Friday's third-place play-off, but Ayegba does not believe the latest crisis will reach such a point.

Expanded to 12 teams for the first time, the Wafcon ends on Saturday night when a new name will be on the trophy, with debutant finalists Morocco taking on four-time runners-up South Africa.

BBC