Aderonke Bello: The sorry state of footballers’ welfare in the Nigerian league

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The League Management Company (LMC) has no doubt done superbly well in the almost-over 2015 League season, coupled with songs of praise from all and sundry, including me, for a well organized and a more focused league. Although, we have not heard much about new sponsors coming into the league, but the LMC have been able to create awareness by drawing more spectators to the stadium.

Having said that,home wins have been hard to come by because of strong competition in the league. Many clubs like Kano Pillars renowned for their over a decade unbeaten home run were beaten at home by Nasarawa united which was a great sign of the competitiveness of the league.

What about the major actors in the league? I am referring to the footballers who laboured day and night to ensure they feature for their teams. These guys always work and train hard, travelling for long hours to and fro, twice a week to play football for their respective teams.

Just because they signed an agreement which they cannot terminate, hence don’t have any other choice,just because they love to play football, with some having to fend for their immediate and extended families. Many cannot move an inch for fear of blackmail or joblessness.

The season that is about to come to an end revealed how players cried in silence, and how some confided in trusted journalists to help them spread the word and many people do not care about the health and wellness of these actors who are just expected to entertain and score goals.

Even the fans look out for the players only on the field of play and are not bothered if they are paid or not. Non payments of salaries are detrimental for obvious reasons, for example personal maintenance, and offsetting of individual commitments. It also has a huge psychological effect on the players performances, because which employee will be happy to see his employers living large when he`s being owed.

Why do we ignore the players, the star attractions, the bread winners of the league, they are humans afterall. As we know that a happy worker is a productive worker. Teams like Taraba FC, Enyimba Intl FC, Dolphins FC, Warri Wolves amongst many others are owing players their due wages by the way,however majority of the players are quiet about it for fear of victimization.

Welfare of footballers is just as pivotal as the lack of salary payments. It has a lot to do with the emotional and psychological state of players.

If I may further ask, how many of these teams has a psychologist? when last did you hold in-house training for your players on how to manage their emotional and other external challenges, and how to make sure it did not affect their on-field performances, or the injured players on how to ensure the injury and lack of activity is not sending them into depression.

With depression, they still play their hearts out, without food and compassion. Moreso, how to behave in public, harness positive energy and concentration. How do you teach and work on a particular skill of the athletes and their attitudes.

Who cares? as expected there is supposed to be a football welfare association in this nation but none of such exist.

The LMC at a time said that for any team to feature in the league, they must meet the minimum requirement of N150,000 and also they will supervise the payment. Some have been fined and some threatened with fines and points deduction.

How many can the LMC on its own do if the rich state owned clubs still owe players, how do they expect them to get paid for their hard-earned entertainment, breaking arms and limbs in the process. They are human and not puppets.

This league season is almost over and I hope the LMC and clubs do the needful with a superior intervention from the NFF to ensure they are paid their dues and not run on the pitch with empty stomach, including in many instances, psychological traumas.

Players are human beings for God’s sake and not puppets.

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Aderonke Ogunleye-Bello  is a journalist, public speaker, change agent and a sports enthusiast.

This piece was first published on ynaija.com

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