Players representing Nigeria staged a sit-in-protest requesting they receive payment of unpaid bonuses dating back between two and three years. Their bonuses amount to two million Nigerian naira; the US dollar equivalent is approximately $5,600. The women say they have received about half of the money owed to them but want the balance. Additionally, the team was asking for a five-day allowance for the time in France and their World Cup participation fee from FIFA.
In statements given to ESPN, Nigerian players say the team requested a meeting (in writing) with the Federation prior to the World Cup. They hoped to discuss the bonuses but received no response.
Nigerian Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick disputed the claims stating the Nigerian team has received all monies owed. Pinnick also noted that the World Cup participation fee customarily paid after the tournament is complete.
The player’s sit-in continued, and the team missed its flight from Paris. At this point, FIFA informed the NFF that any extra expenses the Nigerian team accumulated because of the protest would be deducted from their World Cup participation fee.
The promise of monetary sanctions had the desired result, and the team met with officials who explained that the entire situation was a big misunderstanding. The team wanted bonuses from games played against Gambia and Senegal. Since these games took place in Nigeria, the amount of the bonus money is in Nigerian naira, not United States currency. According to Pinnick, there is a new rule in the NFF, stating, payments for games that take place in Nigeria are paid in naira. Because of this convenient rule, the money the team received sufficed. So, in the eyes of FIFA and the NFF, problem solved.
I am not sure everyone looks at this as a solution so much as a strong-arm tactic to force compliance from the Nigerian team. The players were free to protest, but their participation fee would dwindle in response to accumulated expenses. It is hard to imagine someone not complying with these conditions. A person without great means, far from home cannot afford to stand and fight under those circumstances.
Perhaps this would look a bit less like coercion without the history of payment problems the Nigerian women experienced in the past.
In December 2016, the Nigerian national soccer team held a ten-day sit-in after winning the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. The team contended each player should receive the $23,650 earned in bonuses and allowances. The Nigerian women staged a three-day protest in South Africa in 2004 for non-payment of bonuses.
It is tempting to look at this situation solely from a gender perspective, especially given the pay discrepancies brought to light. While gender does perpetuate the gender pay gap in the sport of soccer as a whole, the NFF also has a history of payment disputes with its men’s national team.
The non-payment problem had escalated to the degree that the team met with the Federation to iron out a truce in 2017. These problems between the NFF and the men’s team led to a historic agreement ahead of the 2018 Men’s World Cup in Russia. Both parties signed a binding agreement not to participate in pay disputes.
This information reinforces the idea that the Nigerian Football Federation may be involved in more than misunderstandings.