BELO HORIZONTE, 17 JUNE: With a warning that their battle over bonuses is not over, Nigeria’s mutinous finally arrived at the Confederations Cup on Sunday with just a day to prepare for their opening match.
The African champions took three flights over more than a day to reach the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte just before dawn on Sunday morning after starting out in Namibia.
The fatigued players play Tahiti in the World Cup warm-up tournament on Monday, and they were due to arrive in Brazil last week before threatening to go on strike.
Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was unwilling to discuss the row with his federation when he faced reporters in Belo Horizonte.
"It’s something that shouldn’t have gone into the press," Enyeama said, rather than explaining the rebellion that threatened Nigeria’s participation.
"We don’t want to elaborate on it," he added. "We want to concentrate on the ."
But when pushed on the status of the bonuses’ dispute, Enyeama was forced to concede that it remained unresolved.
"We haven’t settled anything …. after the championship we will revisit the issue," Enyeama said. "For now we are done."
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi sought to restore harmony within the Nigeria camp by not criticizing his squad.
"I can’t say I am terribly upset with my players, it is their decision," he said. "It depends on the circumstances around it.
"We are here to make Africa proud and Nigeria proud. Whatever happened before is behind us and we just need to concentrate and play our game tomorrow."
Tahiti&’s national team will make its debut at a major FIFA tournament on Monday when it plays African champion Nigeria at the Confederations Cup.
Tahiti, one of the world&’s most remote islands with a population of only 178,000, will be playing against a nation of 170 million in front of a global television audience of millions. “We will write a page of international history,” Tahiti coach Eddie Etaeta said through a translator. “This will be our first very high level match.”
Ranked 138th by FIFA, sandwiched between Syria and Afghanistan, Tahiti qualified for the World Cup warm-up tournament ahead of 2010 World Cup qualifier New Zealand by winning the Oceania Nations Cup. There is only one professional player on the team — Marama Vahirua.
The striker, who plays for Greek club Panthrakikos, is the only Tahitian to play professionally outside the island. But even for Vahirua, the trip to Brazil is a new experience as the team gets surrounded by security, quizzed by the world media, and prepares to play in some of the most famous venues in the sport.“Everything is rather new, I have never lived this before,” Vahirua said through a translator at a news conference attended by only two reporters from Tahiti.