The Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung on Thursday said that Super Falcons winning the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) trophy last Saturday, took the government by surprise as proper arrangements were not made.
According to him, funds were not available because the team was not expected to win the trophy.
The victorious female footballers expressed their disappointment in Abuja on Wednesday as they seized the trophy and refused to vacate their hotel rooms.
Speaking with State House correspondents over the embarrassing development, Dalung said that if the NFF was confident of the victory in Cameroon, it would have applied for and processed the funds for their bonuses early enough to avoid the ugly aftermath.
He said that government needed to perform a ‘surgery’ on the sports sector otherwise, similar occurrences are bound to happen again.
“It is unfortunate that we are celebrating victory of the Super Falcons amidst some bitter feelings among the players because of some administrative lapses that were not managed properly.
“If the situation was explained to these girls I don’t think the situation would have gotten to this level. But we are working around the clock to ensure that what belongs to them legitimately is given to them. This, has to do with government process.
“One thing I always make clear is that the process of request for funds for sporting projects must come earlier to meet the objectives. Don’t forget that nobody even knew the team would emerge victorious, if we were confident they will emerge victorious, all the Federation would have done is to plan for process of participation and entitlement.
“It is already established in sports tradition, when you win this is what you are entitled to. The situation is highly unfortunate and I don’t like it. These girls have given confidence to women who want to embrace sports but this will go a long way in killing this laudable achievement. It is unfortunate but we will make sure the right thing is done,” he said.
Stressing that the team’s coaches are owed backlog of salaries, he said: “It is a complex situation but the entire governance of football deserves an urgent surgery. If that surgery is not done, we will always live with the embarrassment. I’m talking about the governance of football administration in Nigeria.”
He pointed out that the issue of non-interference has been used to harass and intimidate government and that will no longer be allowed as the government is being embarrassed by the activities.
“They use it to scandalise the government so the man who is at the receiving end has the responsibility to ensure that things must be done right so we must take steps to ensure that money meant for athletes get to them on time as at when due.”
According to him, similar situation was prevented from happening during the last Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil as the government insisted that all athletes be paid their 22-day entitlements directly from government purse and not through their respective sports federations.