Sylvanus Okpala (R) with Daniel Amokachi (M) and Stephen Keshi
By Tunde Sulaiman
Former Super Eagles skipper, Sylvanus Okpala, is a high profile casualty of the cost-saving measures adopted by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), which has seen the football body whittle down the technical crew of the Super Eagles from 17 to just nine.
However, while this is the official reason given for laying off the Moscow ’80 Olympics player, THISDAY learnt that he might have been caught up in the power play between the ‘Glass House’ and now retired National Sports Commission (NSC) Director General, Chief Patrick Ekeji.
THISDAY reliably learnt that the former national team player angered NFF bigwigs when he took his fight to be paid the balance of his South Africa 2013 allowances, said to total $58,000 to Ekeji.
According to informed sources, Okpala, who along with Daniel Amokachi and Ike Shorunmu, was part of the technical support team of Head Coach Stephen Keshi in South Africa, was only paid 50 percent of what he was entitled to for the Nations Cup victory on account of paucity of funds at the Glass House.
After apparently waiting for some time for the balance to be paid, an unhappy Okpala then decided to take the matter up with the former NSC director, who had had a long standing running battle with the Glass House who believed he was striving to get them out of office.
It was this action that proved to be the final straw for the NFF bigwigs who felt that Okpala was ‘ungrateful’ for even being considered for the Eagles job in the first instance.
It was also learnt that Keshi’s assistant, Valere Hoaundinou is also being owed CAN 2013 allowances on account of the paucity of funds.
However, NFF’s Assistant Director of Media, Mr Ademola Olajire, while saying he was not aware of the officials being owed allowances, confirmed that the Glass House had decided to trim the size of the Eagles technical crew on the ground that it was too expensive to maintain.
“The technical and backroom staff of the Eagles is just too large they were 17 in number. It was like we were funding another national team!”
He said in line with the cost cutting measures agreed, the federation decided to prune back the technical crew and backroom staff to a more ‘manageable eight or nine’.
It was learnt that the decision to dispense with their services had been taken since last week, but the absence of Dr Emmanuel Ikpeme, who is the federation’s technical department head stalled action, because he was expected to sign the termination letters.
Dr Ikpeme only came back on Sunday after travelling to Qatar to check on the Golden Eaglets who were camping at the Aspire Sports Academy there to prepare for the Cadet Nations Cup kicking off this weekend in Morocco.
With his return, it is expected that the letters will be issued to the affected personnel during the week.