By Njabulo Ngidi
If I was in the shoes of players from Cameroon, Ghana or Nigeria, I would have done the same thing when they basically held their countries to ransom to demand their bonuses for appearing in the World Cup.
Their actions have been called disgraceful and unpatriotic, but I feel they were justified.
If you think it was just about money then you are naive. It was a political statement to the federations that take them for granted, by making impressive promises only to fail to honour them when the players do their part. President of Ghana’s FA, Kwesi Nyantakyi, lashed out at the player’s “money syndrome”, arguing it was the reason why the Black Stars were knocked out in the group stages.
But the very same association sent around 50 officials, more than double the 23-man squad selected for the tournament, on what was nothing more than a joy ride. And then the players are branded greedy when they demand what was due to them.
Zambian players, who guided the nation to their first Africa Cup of Nations title in 2012, were promised a house each as well as monetary rewards for their efforts. Almost two Afcons later, that promise has never been met. If those Chipolopolo would suddenly go on strike, they would be painted as greedy and selfish.
The biggest stumbling block in the growth of African football on the world stage is poor administration.
If an association can afford to send an army on a holiday to Brazil, then the players who worked hard to ensure they qualify should be treated equally. Granted that some instigators in these strikes are pushing their own agendas, but at the core of most of them is fighting for equality and better treatment.
There are many players who are ready to give anything to put smiles on the faces of their countrymen. Seydou Keita volunteered to pay his Malian team-mates’ bonuses for appearing in the 2013 Afcon while there was political unrest back home.
Liberian legend George Weah also used to open his pockets for his national team.
These type of players are a dying breed. The current crop are exactly what we deserve. You can’t flash money around and be mad when those people start demanding their due.
The moment our leaders serve the nation selflessly, then we will get players who will do the same.