I WAS NOT in the mood to write Soccertalk this week. But when I recalled my recent experience with Mr. Uba Stephen Igwe of Badagry, Lagos, I decided against cancelling the column altogether.
Mr. Igwe took the pains to go to a post office, bought a N100 postage stamp and mailed back to me two copies of Complete Sports that had cost him another N100. Igwe’s reason for his “return-to-the-sender” peaceful protest was that my column was missing from the two editions! I was totally humbled.
To Igwe and all other devoted Soccertalk fans, I say a big thank you for your love. But, please give me a break this week. And to Igwe in particular, I beg you, don’t return this copy!
Rather than cancelling the column outright, I have recalled from my private archive the “Code of Conduct” document introduced for the Super Eagles by the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA) in 1995. Then, as now, the football authorities were having problems dealing with “difficult players” over bonus issues and they decided to introduce the Code of Conduct document titled “Operational Handbook for Super Eagles.”
The document was published in April 1995 by the Welfare Committee of the NFA headed then by Chief Segun Odegbami. The late Air Commodore Emeka Omerual (Rtd) was NFA chairman, while Alhaji Sani Ahmed Toro was secretary general.
In addition to the issue of bonuses, the document provides an insight into how the Nigerian FA relates to national team players which readers will find educative. At the end of the document is a brief comment from me. Here we go...
Operational Handbook for Super Eagles
The National Camp
Before any international competitions, qualified Nigerian players are usually invited to camp preparatory to the competition or match.
In the case of players from the domestic league, they are usually camped for several weeks under the supervision of national team coaches and trainers. For players based abroad, their releases are usually sought from their clubs in accordance with FIFA regulations, which clearly specify the length of time the players can stay away from the clubs, the time allowed for pre-match preparations, and the maximum permissible number of games a player can play for his country in a year. It is the responsibility of the Nigeria Football Association to pay for the expenses of all the players invited to the National team.
As a player is not obliged by any law to respond positively to the invitation of his National team, so also is the National Association not obliged to invite any particular player irrespective of his football status.
Clubs, however, are obliged to release players as soon as the players indicate their willingness to answer their nation’s call to duty. FIFA frowns at deliberate attempts by clubs to prevent their players from responding to invitations to national assignments particularly when they are officially recognized ones such as CAF or FIFA organized tournaments and championships.
The selection of players for games is the exclusive and final right of the National Association. It is necessary therefore that the NFA, the player and the club must all have a mutually harmonious, cordial relationship so that each of them will derive maximum benefit from their different responsibilities and requirements. Each body, therefore, has an obligation to the other parties for a mutually beneficial relationship to exist.
Obligations of the NFA
1. The NFA shall inform the player and his club about any engagements in good time. The release of the player must be sought very early so that the club can make adequate arrangements to fill the place of the player.
2. The NFA shall pay for and shall make complete arrangement for the transportation of the player from his base to the camp.
3. The NFA will provide good boarding in a conducive environment for the team members. All players will stay in the same camp. Although players may have a say in choice of proper accommodation, it is the final prerogative of the Association to decide where the team camps.
4. The NFA shall be responsible for the daily allowances of the players for the entire period of stay in camp. The Association must make every effort to pay allowances promptly.
5. The Association shall provide a conducive camping environment for the players to avoid boredom, distractions and indiscipline.
6. The Association shall provide good and adequate transportation for the team and its handlers to reflect their respected national status.
7. The Association shall determine and shall promptly pay all match bonuses to the players.
8. The Association shall provide the players with full details of their return to their various clubs. This includes flight bookings, flight tickets and local transportation costs.
9. The Association shall keep proper records of a player’s participation in matches for the country.
10. The Association shall provide full insurance cover for the team and its officials for every engagement against accidents both off and on the field and in the case of disability or death.
11. The Association or its insurers shall be fully responsible for the medical expenses of players or official in case of an accident in the course of duty.
12. The Association shall only be obliged to indemnify a player or official to a reasonable degree in the case of property loss whilst in camp, provided it is established that it is not due to the negligence of the persons concerned.
13. The Association shall mete out any appropriate disciplinary action against any player who fails to fully carry out his obligation to the Association and the national team.
Obligations of the players.
1. The player shall, on notification by his club of an invitation by the association, or on receipt of a copy of the release letter sent to his club, immediately notify his club of his intention to represent his country, and confirm this to the association through telephone or fax.
2. The player shall make all reasonable effort to secure his own release after notification has reached his club.
3. The player shall make his own flight arrangements except on occasions when the association makes other arrangements. The player shall be fully reimbursed by the association on arrival in Camp.
4. The player shall report to camp as soon as cleared to do so by his club in accordance with laid down FIFA regulations concerning release of players.
5. The player must stay in the camp provided for by the association. Should he choose to stay away from camp, he shall be responsible for his expenses and shall be deemed not to have officially reported to camp.
6. On arrival in camp, the player shall be given a detailed programme of the team which he shall be obliged to follow except he has permission of the officials in charge not to do so.
7. The player shall be obliged to keep to standard camp rules. These are;
a. keeping to sleeping and waking hours
b. keeping to training periods
c. receiving visitors only at approved times and not in the rooms
d. not leaving camp for any reason without permission
e. adhering to any other specific reasonable directives of the camp.
8. The player shall be obliged to wear only approved travelling clothes (where provided), approved traveling and match outfits given by the association.
9. The player shall not go into private contract with any manufacturer on the following items whilst in the national camp and when representing his country:
a. Training Kits (track suits, bibs, jerseys)
b. Match outfits (track suits, jerseys, shorts)
c. Traveling outfit (where provided)
In the case of playing shoes (boots) and goalkeepers gloves, there are exceptions, unless otherwise mutually agreed by both parties – player and association.
Where a player has gone into contract with a shoe manufacturer, or a glove manufacturer, he must report this to the officials in camp on arrival. He shall, therefore, not be obliged to collect the items since he shall not use them by virtue of his contract.
Players are however free to negotiate shoe and glove contracts on their own. Where such fail and they choose to use shoes and gloves provided by the association there is no obligation to pay them.
A contract entered into by the association for out-fitting, balls, and training equipment and gear are the exclusive preserve of the association.
10. A player who sustains an injury in his club and later receives an invitation to the national camp must inform the association about his injury and its extent. The association can then decide to still invite him to the camp if the injury is not serious, or support the player in his rehabilitation or ask the player to remain in his club for complete treatment.
However, should the player conceal an injury and report to the national camp, the association may not be responsible for the costs incurred.
11. A player who has problems in getting his release from his club shall inform the association as soon as possible so that necessary steps can be taken to get his release through FIFA.
12. A player shall be bound to accept the final team selection made by the Team’s handler.
13. A player with a complaint over any issue, concerning his colleagues, the camp, and any other related camp matters shall report to either his team captain of the official in charge of the team’s administration, who shall look into his matter and deal with appropriately.
14. The captain of the national team shall be selected from amongst the players by the team handler in consultation with the association. In the choice of a captain, the leadership role of a player, his qualities, his influence on the team shall all come into consideration. No disputes shall be entertained over such an appointment.
15. The captain of the national team shall be the overall spokesman of the team. Players can express their views though at meetings and other discussion fora if called upon to do so.
16. A player in camp shall be free to talk to the press on issues that are not controversial or that may not cause disaffection in camp.
At international competitions players shall be given adequate protection from the press and may talk to them at designated places and times seen by the team’s handlers to be in the best interest of the team.
17. All issues not discussed in this handbook shall be discussed first at an arrangement meeting between the captain of the team and 2 other representatives, and 3 officials of the team. Where the matter cannot be resolved, the secretary of the association will be involved. Should this fail, the chairman of the association will give a final ruling.
Remuneration of National Team Players
lThe remuneration stated below are for the 1995 football year. The Association may review this from time to time. Although the association may increase remuneration based on its discretion, it can not reduce remuneration at any time during the year.
The players may make a case for adjustment of allowances if and when there is a need for it, but the figures below are binding on them.
All players invited for a game shall be entitled to a participation fee. Win or lose all the players draw this. Those who actually dress up for the match are entitled to a match bonus in the case of a win, or a draw. No bonuses shall be paid for a loss.
Daily Allowance (for Nigeria-based players whilst in lenghty camp) – N100/day
(from 4 days to game and for all players) – $100/day
Participation fee – $1000
Winning Bonus – $1000
Draw Bonus – $500
International Tournaments or Championship
(7 days to event for all players) – $200
Participation fee – $1000
Winning Match Bonus – $1500/match
Draw Bonus – $1000/match
Africa Cup of Nations (1996 January)
(14 days to event ) – $200
Participation fee – $2,500
1st Round winning match bonus – $2,500
1/4 finals winning match bonus – $2,500
1/2 finals winning match bonus – $3,000
Finals winning bonus – $5,000
Draw Bonus (1st round) – will be decided by association depending on the fate of the team.
Marketing and Sponsorship
The association shall go into contract with organizations and products around the association’s events.
Where the teams of the national association are the “products” being marketed the association shall give to the team (the players involved in particular championship or event) a percentage of the earning from the sponsorship arrangement.
The association will protect the interest of the players and make their share available to them appropriately. The association however will have the final say in determining the value of the sponsorship and the percentage due to the players based on their own evaluation. Since the players are not directly involved they shall have to accept the decision of the association which shall not be contested.
lThe participation fees from the governing bodies of football CAF/FIFA paid to national association are the exclusive accruals due to the association. The association’s obligation to the players has been fulfilled by the participation allowances and bonus fees paid to the players.
As players are invited to the national camp and they are expected to represent their country they become international ambassadors of Nigeria.
Conduct inside and outside the country shall be exemplary to project and protect the image and integrity of the country.
It is necessary therefore to secure the co-operation of every individual player.
The association representing the interest of Nigeria and the game of football, therefore, is faced with the responsibility to secure the co-operation of every player representing Nigeria.
lHaving gone through this handbook and having understood the contents therein and having decided to accept the details of the obligations demanded of me by the association, I hereby consent to work and represent my country within the outlined framework.
I undertake to abide by the provisions of this handbook in its content and spirit, for as long as I am called upon to represent Nigeria!.
(Signed: Super Eagles player.)
lIn the aftermath of the embarrassing bonus row that engulfed the Super Eagles on the eve of the recently - concluded Confederations Cup in Brazil which caused the team to arrive at the competition venue late, sports minister Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi this week announced a five-man panel to investigate “the remote and immediate causes of the crisis, develop a code of conduct for players on national assignments and make any other recommendations that they deem necessary.”
I hope that the panel, eminently led by Segun Adeniyi, chairman, editorial board of ThisDay newspapers and a self-confessed “football fanatic,” will find the foregoing 1995 document a useful reference material. Obviously, the “bonus problem” is not new in the national team. What is required now is a solution that will endure.
I encourage Soccertalk readers to submit memoranda on the way forward to the panel either directly or through this column. My personal views on the matter, hopefully, will come next week.
Ramadan Kareem (Blessings of Ramadan) to everyone as this year’s muslim fasting begins.