Nigeria latest Africa team in bonus money row
Nigeria's squad will travel for its World Cup second-round game against France as scheduled after canceling a training session amid reports of another pay dispute involving an African nation, the team spokesman said on Friday (local time).
Media officer Ben Alaiya declined to comment on reports that players were demanding bonuses owed to them and the Thursday night training session was cancelled because of the dispute.
Nigeria didn't turn up for the practice near its base in Campinas, north of Sao Paulo, because a team meeting ran too long, Alaiya said. He declined to comment on the subject of the meeting.
Instead, Alaiya insisted everything was OK and that the African champions would fly to the capital Brasilia ahead of the knockout game against the French on Monday.
Fellow West African teams Cameroon and Ghana have both had their World Cup campaigns badly distracted by pay disputes.
Cameroon's squad refused to get on a plane to Brazil at the beginning of the month until their bonuses were improved and Ghana said it flew in cash from back home to keep its players happy ahead of the decisive final group game against Portugal.
Both Cameroon and Ghana were eliminated in the group stage.
Last year, Nigeria arrived days late for the Confederations Cup in Brazil because of a row over player payments, which resulted in the squad refusing to leave a hotel and travel for the World Cup warm-up tournament.
The problems also re-surfaced earlier this month at the World Cup and a Nigerian politician visited the team camp in Campinas to mediate between players and federation officials.
The Nigeria Football Federation then announced two weeks ago that the bonus structure had been agreed upon, with players getting US$10,000 for every game they win in the group stage. The bonuses will improve with victories in the knockout stages. Each player would get an additional US$12,500 for beating France in the last 16.
Nigeria's team meeting came just hours after the NFF released a statement saying there were no problems in the squad over bonuses.
"We understand that some people are playing politics but they must leave us out of it so that we can do well here and go far in the tournament," coach Stephen Keshi was quoted as saying in the statement.
Nigeria qualified second behind Argentina in Group F, making the second round of the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
Fifa wants proof from future World Cup teams that players are paid on time after a dispute involving Ghana was resolved by cash shipment.
Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke says action is needed after Ghana players threatened not to play Portugal until money arrived from Africa.
Valcke says "it's sad that we end up with such a story where they were talking in some way about a strike."
The Fifa official says "the fact that the money came in cash is also sad."
It was the second pay dispute involving an African team.
Cameroon arrived one day late in Brazil after players refused to travel until bonuses were agreed.
Valcke says "we will make sure" that participating national associations show written agreements of paying players by bank transfer.