The Athletic Daily

Obasi’s bribery allegation open old wounds

Chinedu Obasi has revealed the bribery allegation in the national team which demanded he paid money for his name to be included in the FIFA 2014 World Cup squad in Brazil.

Bribery allegation: Chinedu Obasi alleged he was asked to pay money before being included in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil
Bribery allegation: Chinedu Obasi alleged he was asked to pay money before being included in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

Happy weekend to you, I trust you are fine during these trying times. Yesterday I wrote about the effect of “fake news” in the development of sports in Nigeria, not just in Nigeria, but in every other country around the world. If you are yet to read about that, the link is here.

It is becoming quite interesting and also very sad about some revelations coming out of former players and coaches. I’ve written before and clearly still believes this time off from football and other activities forced by the coronavirus outbreak is a time for reflection, a time to look back at what we have done, the decisions we have taken, and the implications.

Some people might not realise the damages they have caused by their actions and inactions, but somehow, it has created something that was not anyway supposed to be if little actions like demanding bribes or favours from footballers were avoided.

Yesterday, former Super Eagles winger, Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi made a revelation in an interview, claiming he was asked to pay a bribe before his name could be included in the list of players that were supposed to travel with the national team to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Obasi in 2014 was playing for Schalke 04, one of the biggest club sides in Germany, and was playing in the Uefa Champions League. He was not a rookie or a ‘nobody’, but an established name in Nigerian football, he played at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and represented Nigeria on numerous occasions, so what he says should not be taken lightly.

Ogbuke said “I was playing for Schalke, I was playing in the Champions League and I was doing well. Two days before the list came out, I was asked to pay some money if I want to be in the team,” Obasi said in an Instagram Live.

“I said I’m not comfortable doing that. They said I should know the system, and I should act like I’m a Nigerian. I said it’s not about being a Nigerian but doing the right thing.”

Now, that is quite shocking but not new to Nigerian football. what worries me most is the “they” he is using in the quotes, which means it wasn’t just one person who demanded bribe from him, but a group of people, maybe the whole structure of the national team.

Sampson Siasia was banned for life by FIFA from all football-related activities because of bribery allegation
Sampson Siasia was banned for life by FIFA from all football-related activities because of bribery allegation (PHOTO CREDIT: The Guardian)

We are all aware that things like this always happen in Nigeria and this latest revelation has opened old wounds. You may sit down and ask yourself, how many players have suffered this type of fate in the national team but are unable to speak up? How many of them in the current setup is living in this kind of situation and how many have decided to say, ‘you know what, I will pay’ and go ahead and play for the team.?

Things like this will clearly manifest on the pitch of play where a player underperforms but will consistently make the team despite having better players on the bench, these players can never be dropped, neither will they ever be substituted because of how much they’ve paid to be in the team.

This is not the first and will not be the last in Nigerian football if the NFF and sports ministry do not act fast.

I read an article this morning published in 2016 by the Punch Newspaper about bribery allegations in Nigeria and will bring some quotations. We have seen incidences like that of Samson Siasia, one of Nigeria’s best coaches involving in bribe allegations to a point he was given a life ban by FIFA in relation to manipulation of matches.

According to the Punch, football administrator Shuaib Gara-Gombe in 2016 described Samson Siasia as “the most corrupt and dubious coach in history,” the one who instituted bribery in Nigerian football and alleged that he collected money from Modibo Sani to include him in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“He is the coach who institutionalised cash for call up in our national team. Siasia collected money from the woman with a promise that he will include her son (Modibo Sani) in the team to the Olympics, just like he did to so many other players. When the official team list for the Olympics was released, the boy was not on the list and the mother was angry,” Gara-Gombe stated.

Salisu Yusuf was banned from all football activities for one year because of bribery allegation
Salisu Yusuf was banned from all football activities for one year because of bribery allegation (CREDIT: AS English)

Former Super Eagles defender, Taribo West in an interview confirmed that coaches always asked players for money before inviting them to the national team.

“Of course a lot of players come into the national team through the back door rather than on their individual ability,” Taribo said.

“It was there in my time but it wasn’t as high as it is today, when you see all manner of faces in the colours of the national teams. During my era, a great player like Emmanuel Adebayor wanted to play for Nigeria, but he couldn’t and had to opt for Togo. So, which coach would go for a lesser player because of his money?

“But afterwards we started seeing people who could barely trap a ball in the national team. Ahead of the World Cup in 2002, top players like Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George and Tijani Babangida were axed from the squad and some people felt it was an opportunity to bring in players from all manner of lower leagues across the globe. They wanted to pay their way into the team for the World Cup.”

In 2014, an investigation was carried out which revealed that an assistant coach of the Super Eagles extorted money from players by buying watches in Europe and sold it to players, those who refused to buy the wristwatches will be sidelined and never invited to the national team again.

One of the unknown senior players told the Punch, “The coach buys the wristwatches between $500 and $1,000 in Europe and forces us to buy them for $10,000. If you don’t buy, you are regarded as an enemy.”

“The most painful thing is that these wristwatches are sold at very cheap prices in Europe; they go for between $500 and $1000 but he brings them here to sell for us at such outrageous prices. I have to buy or I would be seen as encouraging the other players not to buy.”

Former Chelsea midfielder Emmanuel Sarki in a report by thescottishsun.co.uk, was quoted as saying that he snubbed Nigeria to play international football for Haiti because he was asked to pay up to £1,000 to play for the Super Eagles by the team’s coach.

Even Daniel Amokachi in an interview with BBC Sport confirmed the practice is prevalent in Nigeria, stating that agents of players always approached coaches, seeking to bribe them to include their players in the national team.

 “Agents always come to give money for their players to be invited to camp. Does it have to be so? We know this thing has been going on for a while but we have to voice it,”

Former Flying Eagles coach Paul Aigbogun was mentioned in bribery allegation
Former Flying Eagles coach Paul Aigbogun was mentioned in bribery allegation (PHOTO CREDIT: Brila)

 Last year (2019), it was alleged that former Flying Eagles coach, Paul Aigbogun was also taking bribe before inviting players to the camp, which he denied the allegations.

In 2018, Salisu Yusuf was seen in a video meeting with Anas’s Tiger Eye agency and accepting cash, noted in the footage as being $1,000 to ensure that two players were selected for the African Nations Championship tournament.

The list is endless, these things continue to happen under our very nose and we pay deaf ears to these allegations which has affected the development of our sports. If this is happening in the national team, then it is a common practice for clubs in the NPFL.

It is also heartwarming to know that the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare has weighed into the case and we are expecting results from the investigations.

This cannot be allowed to go on, the authorities must do something as a matter of urgency to redeem what is left of our image.

Right, that’s all from me today, tomorrow I will be back with a fresh edition, hopefully, we will have course to smile.

As always, stay at home to stay alive, if don’t have anything important to do outside, please endeavour you sit tight at home.

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