Search For Greener Pastures Ends in Slavery For Nigerian Footballer
The search for greener pastures has turned into a nightmare for Nigerian international Michael Uchebo, who currently plays for Portuguese top-flight club Boavista.
Since April 2016, he has not been paid and risks eviction from his house, according to the FIFPro Global Employment Report 2016, which documented his plight and that of others in similar situation.
Apart from being denied his wages, the striker, who represented Nigeria at the 2009 African Youth Championship and was called to the Super Eagles in 2014, has not been allowed to play for the club since the end of last season.
Uchebo is part of the over 40 per cent of the world’s professional footballers that have experienced delayed payment of wages, the global players’ union FIFPro said in the report.
The wide-ranging survey carried out by the University of Manchester and published by the union on Tuesday, shows that 41 percent of the 13,876 players who responded had been forced to wait for their salaries over the past two seasons.
The report which used Uchebo’s plight to illustrate its findings quoted him as saying during a press conference organised by the Portuguese players’ union in Lisbon that he was at a loss about why he was in the situation.
“I don’t understand why Boavista treat me like this,” he said. “I asked them if I did something wrong. They are treating me like a slave.”
He said he was banned from first-team training and posted footage on social media that appears to show him being forcibly removed from Boavista’s gymnasium and threatened with violence by security staff.
AFP reported that Boavista did not wish to comment on the matter when contacted, noting however that in a video posted on Facebook earlier this month, club president Alvaro Braga said Uchebo’s statements “do not correspond to the truth”.
The AFP report said Braga accused Uchebo of turning down opportunities to join other clubs during the close-season transfer window and rejecting a settlement — which FIFPro says was one month’s salary — to terminate his contract.
FIFPro General-Secretary Theo van Seggelen was quoted as saying recently that the plight of footballers “is a wake-up call for clubs and governing bodies”.
“We cannot accept it any longer.”
The FIFPro Global Employment Report 2016 also found nine percent of players had suffered from violence and seven percent had been approached to fix matches.
FIFPro hopes the survey, which is the biggest of its kind, will shed light on the problems faced by players playing outside glamorous championships such as England’s Premier League or Spain’s La Liga.
Uchebo started his professional career with Enugu Rangers from where he joined VVV Venlo in 2009.
In 2012, he had unsuccessful trials with Stoke City and Rangers, eventually joining Cercle Brugge on a two-year contract after which he joined Boavista in 2014.
He was part of the Super Eagles squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.