Nigeria’s World Cup side have lost out on more than $300k promised to them by government officials and sponsors after last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat against Croatia.
A Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) spokesman told CNN that the federation had approved bonus amounts of $10K to be paid to each of the players if they had won the game.
Ademola Olajire said: “Yes, the Super Eagles were to earn $10,000 each. It was meant to be their winning bonus for the game.”
There were widespread reports in Nigeria Tuesday that the country’s sports minister had promised to increase their bonus by $5,000 per player if they won their next game against Iceland.
However his aide, Nneka Anibeze, told CNN that the reports were incorrect, adding that he had only promised the additional amount for their opening match, which they failed to win.
The team’s loss against Croatia meant they also lost out on another $50,000 promised to them by the federation sponsor Aiteo, while Nigeria’s Senate President Bukola Saraki also promised the team another $50,000 for all games won, according to NFF president Amaju Pinnick.
Reports from local media also said Saraki had gifted the team an additional $50,000 ahead of their departure to Russia.
Bonus payments have been an issue of controversy within the Nigeria squad and some other African countries in the past.
Nigerian players have battled with the NFF leadership over very long delays in paying out bonuses especially in the qualification games leading to major tournaments.
The fight culminated in a series of strikes by players at the start of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Ghana’s Black Stars made global headlines for the wrong reasons at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after their fight with their federation over monies owed.
The disagreement forced FIFA to intervene by making advance payments to the Ghana FA to allow them to pay the players their bonus and put the media focus back on the pitch rather than the fights for cash.
In the case of Nigeria, the government was forced to send a delegation carrying dollars in cash to pay the players on the eve of their game with France.
The Super Eagles eventually lost the game and crashed out of the World Cup in 2014.
The current NFF leadership say they have learned the painful lessons from the events in the Nigerian and Ghanaian camps and ensured that cash issues were sorted out way ahead of the 2018 World Cup.
NFF president Pinnick explained to CNN that they signed an agreement on the bonus sharing formula with the players last year and also paid their share of FIFA’s qualifying bonus upfront to avoid any disagreements.
“We are confident now that without any distraction, the players can concentrate with Nigerians and fans of the Eagles see the most organized outing so far,” Pinnick told CNN.
After the players signed the bonus and allowances agreement with the NFF last year, team captain Mikel Obi told the federation’s official website, thenff.com: “We are very happy and excited with this development. This is the first time since I started playing for the senior team that I would see everything regarding preparation and bonuses and allowances put down in black and white and a binding agreement executed.
“It is reassuring that we now have a Federation leadership so committed to making everything work that they arranged this meeting and allowed the players to contribute and then set out to sign the agreement.”
Fans have however been disappointed with the Nigerian team’s performance in their opening game against Croatia, which they lost 2-0 because of an own goal and a penalty.
Nigeria are now at the bottom of the Group D table after the defeat but the team’s coach Gernot Rohr has said he is very confident that the team would qualify to reach the next round.
Rohr said: “We are disappointed. We recognize that Croatia had the better team… and my young players made mistakes, again on the corners. Of course you are not satisfied when you don’t score.
“We were satisfied with the organization of the team defensively, but we did not have many chances to score.”