The Unprofessional Conduct of NPFL Players
By Taofeek Lawal
The Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) is the highest level of the Nigerian football league system. It is a league for Nigerian club sides at the highest level of football in the country with local or home-based players.
One cannot doubt the fact that Nigeria has a pool of skillful and talented footballers home and abroad who are doing well in their chosen profession. Majority of these players, whether home or abroad, are the breadwinners of their respective families and a lot is usually placed on their shoulders. When they are making money, it manifests in the lives of those around them especially family members and vice versa.
For the players who ply their trades outside the shores of Nigeria, they most times find ways to make ends meet through friends and families they have helped when things were rosy but for those at home, they are consumed by pride because of the unprofessional attitude and pride and apparently because of lack of exposure and poor human relations.
The league players most often don’t invest in their future and it quickly tells on them as soon as they are through with their careers. They are very secretive when it comes to how much they earn in their various clubs and lack the proper guidance on how such money could be invested for the future after football.
Unlike their European counterparts, they do not have representatives or agents or at times lawyers to represent them when they are signing contracts with clubs. Without agents that could have guided them appropriately, they are easily shortchanged by the clubs and put in perpetual penury and slavery because most of them are semi-literate. And if at all they have agents or representatives, they don’t always come out clean for the agents and most times connive with some unscrupulous elements to shortchange people who could have put their lives on the right pedestal after a glittering career.
A Nigerian local league player sees himself as the lord of the manor with an erroneous belief that everyone is under him. They forget that without media nobody could have heard or known about their exploits in their clubs no matter how good they are. Media plays a very important role in every facet of life but Nigerian players are blind to this. They believe that every media professional that accost them for chat or interviews is only interested in their money. They look down on the media with disgust. But it is not like that in other climes. The conviviality between players and the press in major leagues around the world is there for everyone to see. Nigerian players only need the media when they are in trouble. You only know their salary when they are owed but when all is well you can’t get anything from them. They forget that media or public relations are essential parts of players’ management.
The most disturbing conduct of Nigerian players is the consumption of drugs and other hard substances going to a match. It shows in their attitudes on the field of play with the kind of aggression they display to the match officials when officiating did not go their way. While it is not out of place for players to show grievances and challenge unfavourable calls, the way and manner they crowded round the referees leave much to be desired.
Chairman Warri Wolves, Moses Etu, confirmed in an interview that Nigerian players use hard drugs which affect them negatively. Some players cannot do without drugs and will not perform at their best on the pitch. “There is no doubt about the use of hard drugs among our league players especially in the northern part but I have told my players that the eleventh commandment is thou shall not be caught and that once I catch you with any hard drug, you will be expelled,” Etu said.