Nigeria’s football players union has called on the national federation once again to assist in implementing an insurance scheme to provide welfare coverage for players who have fallen on hard times.
ESPN has learned of the renewed desire to act in the wake of inaccurate reports that Nigeria’s Super Eagles legend Christian Chukwu had been “abandoned” in ill-health.
Austin Popo, a retired player and current General Secretary of the Nigeria players union, the National Association of Nigeria Professional Footballers (NANPF) said the body’s attempts to launch a health insurance scheme for players had been frustrated by the lukewarm attitude of the country’s football leadership
“The union can barely do anything regarding pension and welfare for ex-players without the cooperation of the clubs, League Management Company and NFF [Nigeria Football Federation,” he told ESPN.
“We designed and launched a scheme a few years ago but the NFF at the time failed to help and it died.”
Chukwu’s predicament has once again put the issue of a welfare scheme for ex-players on the front burner.
The reports of a GoFundMe campaign to raise $US50 000 to fly the former Enugu Rangers and Nigeria captain to the United States for treatment for a life-threatening condition, believed to be prostate cancer, prompted outrage in Nigeria, where Chukwu remains a national hero for his exploits on the football field.
A swashbuckling centre-back, he captained Enugu Rangers to victory in the African Cup Winners’ Cup in 1977 and then skippered the Super Eagles to their first Africa Cup of Nations title, at home in Nigeria in 1980.
As a coach, he was on the staff as Nigeria won their first world title, the Under 17 World Cup, and then was an assistant to Clemens Westerhof as the Super Eagles claimed their second Afcon title in 1994. Such is the esteem in which he is held that his subsequent failure as national coach, his tenure marred by criticism of tactics and selections, does not detract from his legend.
The NFF and billionaire Femi Otedola each offered to pay for the reported necessary treatment before the Enugu State Government, which owns Rangers and employs Chukwu, released a statement to clarify the position.
Davidson Owumi, Enugu Rangers chief executive and chairman of the ex Rangers Players Association, told ESPN that news of Chukwu’s health issues had been “blown out of proportion” and “the idea that he was abandoned is wrong”.