By Jide Ayegbusi
The Super Eagles celebrate a goal against Mozambique at the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola. Via Zimbio
It is no longer news that the the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has abridged the Super Eagles match bonus to a sustainable level. A development that is pleasingly laudable though belated. Notably, this is not the first time the NFF would slash the Eagles’ match bonuses. The Glass House out of reprehensible performances of the Super Eagles, under Samson Siasia, ingenuously announced a cut in their match bonuses. After so much hurly-burly, the Nigerian football body rescinded its decision and returned the bonus to $10,000. We hope the decision will stay this time.
Even though the match bonus bedlam seems to be going abysmal, it is necessary to put up a piece like this so that the abyss key can be irrecoverably thrown into the deepest part of the deep blue sea. Victor Ikpeba, former African Footballer of the Year, recently frowned at the Super Eagles’ action when the team ignominiously embarrassed the nation with their plan to boycott the Confederations Cup in the name of bonus slashing. The veteran further illuminated on how they won gold medal in the glorious Atlanta 1996 Olympics with little or no resources, and I asked myself - do we still possess individual players who would be brought from a humble background to represent the most populous black nation and still maintain that humility in character?
Squandering winning bonuses have often been bountifully promised by the NFF and most sports bodies in Nigeria whenever they are anticipating must-win competitions. In fact, money has been seen as a viable element to fuel desired performance in Nigerian sports circles. This must stop.
In as much as it will be sappy and maudlin for one to say money plays insignificant role in morale boosting, it will not be out of hand to say money as a guerdon is not motivation. To this end, psychologists have identified a thousand and one non-financial factors that egg on individuals and in this context, footballers. As in other sporting activities, we play football for a variety of reasons. Most of us learn our sporting skills in school as part of a compulsory curriculum. As we get older we can choose to increase our sporting activity if we so wish. Our reasons for playing may change over time as we grow older or develop other interests.
Consequently, for us to continue taking part in sports we need to get something in return. Initial enjoyment of the activity for its own sake might be sufficient, but as we take it more seriously, playing well and winning also become important. If we do not enjoy the activities or are unsuccessful we are unlikely to want to carry on. Whether we want to continue in sport or not depends upon the strength of the drive within us. This drive or desire we call motivation. We all vary in our drive to succeed in soccer or life in general; that is we all have different levels of motivation.
Majority are intrinsically motivated. That is their motivation comes from own inner drives. Examples include playing for fun and enjoyment, improving fitness and losing weight, the physical pleasure of the activity, performing skillfully and being successful and the pleasure gained from being with others.
At the other side of the coin are those that are extrinsically motivated. Their spur comes from rewards and outside pressures. Examples include winning competitions, being praised for their achievements, to satisfy the expectations of parents, teachers and coaches and to fulfill their commitment to their team.
Moreover, most players are motivated by a mixture of different reasons, some internal, some external. As they get older, it is the intrinsic motivation that keeps them taking part in sport when the extrinsic motivators are reduced. Most of players are likely to continue with soccer if they enjoy the experience and gain some success. The more skillful a footballer is, the more likely he would want to be successful, and this success will increase his motivation.
The non-financial motivator gives personal satisfaction to an individual footballer. It is a reward which gives inner joy to an individual but cannot be measured and quantified in terms of money. Lionel Messi, one of the most incredibly brilliant footballers the world has ever seen, once underscored this fact. “Money allows you to have a better life, but it is not what inspires me. I’d play for nothing to be a professional player; I live for the game, not for economic benefits, and play for the team not me. Individual awards are fine, but the success of Barcelona and Argentina are what is really important,” said the well-paid superstar.
Having said all these, it is high time our sports administrators began to look at subtle but crucial factors that motivate Nigerian footballers.
Take the issue of ticket refund and players’ choice of flying status for example. Most players want to fly in first class when returning home to honour national calls and they feel insulted when asked to receive money for economy class. This may rub on the performances of the players particularly when the game is very important.
In the same vein, the mode of transportation to competitions’ venues is not to be toyed with. We have often witnessed situations where decrepit aircrafts were used to move players and officials to competition venues. Emmanuel Adebayor once refused to go along with his Togolese team mates to a match venue because of the dreadful condition of the aircraft that was to be used. There was even a time when the team was attacked by terrorists while traveling by land to a match venue. All these are enough to kill players’ morale.
It is high time the NFF focused on several other factors that motivate our soccer teams. National awards and recognitions, insurance covers, good health care system for the sick and injured players, team selection devoid of sentiments, good welfare package for a deceased player’s family and so on may be all that are needed to adequately motivate our players.
Lastly, our players too should realize that national team is not a business entity like their clubs. Whatever peanuts provided should be received as honorariums for values well added to the team.