14-month unpaid salaries: We’re indebted, beg to eat, can’t buy pads – Pelican Stars of Cross River
“I owe people about N50,000 to buy boots, jerseys, foodstuff, and pads. But we were paid just two months salaries out of the 16 months we are owed, I don’t know how to explain that, but I must confess that things are so tough,” Pelican Stars captain Hodo Williams told Saturday PUNCH on Friday.
Williams’ revelation literarily summed up the frustrations of the players and officials of Nigeria Women’s Football League side Pelican Stars, who are still being owed 14 months salaries, after the Cross River State Government recently paid their two months’ wages.
“The suffering is much because we used the money we were paid recently to clear some of our debts,” Williams added.
In April, players of the Calabar-based club staged a protest at the U.J Esuene Stadium against the non-payment of their salary arrears, which was then 10 months.
Again in August, the female footballers blocked the entrance to the office of Governor Ben Ayade in protest over 14 months unpaid salaries by the Cross River State Government.
Some players of the club, who expressed their displeasure at the treatment of the players, pleaded with Ayade, to pay their outstanding 14-month salaries.
“We were told they wanted to pay us four months’ salaries, but we heard they paid the other two months into a wrong account,” a player of the team, Ogechi Onyinanya, said.
“They should help us and get it done fast because I still have to eat and it means I have to start begging again if we are not paid on time.”
The poor living conditions of the players has forced assistant captain of the team Chinenye Okafor to resort to learn a new trade –hairdressing –in a bid to seek survival elsewhere.
Her parents are against her playing football again following the traumatising times she’s passed through in Calabar.
“I am now in Lagos learning hairdressing. I have tried to convince my parents to allow me to go back to Calabar but they are against me playing football again,” Okafor said.
She added, “Things have been so tough; that is why I left Calabar for Lagos in June to stay with my parents, and they are the ones now taking care of me.
“The players have embarked on several protests after I left Calabar, but I don’t want to bother myself about it again. I just want to move on with my life.
“I now learn hairdressing at Ojodu-Berger in Lagos to keep myself busy.”
Williams said Governor Ayade refused to address the issue with the players during their last protest in August.
“We staged a protest on August 25, 2020, and we met the governor, but he was rushing somewhere and he didn’t say anything or attend to us,” she said.
“It’s not been easy surviving without salaries for 14 months. I’ve had to beg, borrow and I even owe debts all around. Things have been tough, but our families have been trying to assist in their own little ways. I have to run back to my parents because when I had I looked for them too.
“Football is all I have. My parents told me to forget about playing football, they want me to look for something else to do. But I’m not going to give up on football because challenges don’t last. I know that one day everything will be fine.”
Ogechi added, “It has been so hard for us with things I may not really be able to say. I owe so many debts everywhere.
“I owe a debt of about N80,000 to buy foodstuffs. Now some people have refused to sell anything to me on credit because I’ve not been able to clear the previous debt. It’s embarrassing.”
The Cross River State Commissioner for Sports Offa Aya said the club was managing the situation.
“They (players) are our children, we own the club and we are managing them within our capacity.
“So, if they have any issue they should report to us and tell us their challenges,” Aya said. Punch