The World Cup journey for Nigeria is only partially over after being eliminated from the tournament by Germany in the round of 16 on Saturday.
Nigeria’s athletes had refused to leave their hotel and head home until all players have been paid their outstanding wages — including daily allowances while competing in France as well as bonuses owed from two years ago. According to ESPN, the members of the Nigerian team had previously only been paid half of the nearly $5,600, or two million Nigerian naira, owed from matches that took place in 2016 and 2017.
A deal was finally brokered between the Nigeria Football Federation and the women’s team that brought the sit-in to an end, however a complete resolution is still pending.
“They paid us 1 million [naira] and said that is all. We want them to pay the balance,” one player told ESPN before the team agreed to leave the hotel. “Part of that money is from two years ago, the other is from three years ago. And they are also owing us five days' daily allowance here in France.”
The Nigeria Football Federation previously disputed the claims, saying the players have been paid “everything they are being owed”, per president Amaju Pinnick, with the exception of the World Cup participation fee, which the tournament organizers are scheduled to pay out in September.
To end the protest, the team agreed to begin heading home as long as they received their bonuses on Monday.
Nigeria’s women’s team has protested over unpaid wages and bonuses on multiple occasions in the last two decades. In 2016, the team held a public rally in the Nigerian capital of Abuja due to unpaid allowances, while in 2004 the team held a similar sit-in at their hotel in South Africa until their allowances were paid. Both protests came after the team won the Africa Women Cup of Nations.
The athletes attempted to avoid another conflict on the world stage before traveling to France, telling ESPN they asked for a meeting with the federation to discuss bonuses as the men’s team did in 2018, however their letter was “ignored”.
This tournament marked the eighth World Cup appearance for the Nigerian women, with their best finish coming as a quarter finalist in 1999.
By Blake Schuster