Ligue 1 Côte d'Ivoire: Unpaid wages, one crisis too many!

La crise secoue ASI Abengourou
Ligue 1 Côte d'Ivoire: Unpaid wages, one crisis too many!

Côte d'Ivoire's success in organizing the AFCON 2023 has not solved the problem of unpaid wages in the Ivorian Ligue 1 championship.

Clubs and players are struggling

The AFCON 2023 ended on a positive note, with praise from around the world and the coronation of the host country, Côte d'Ivoire. However, all is not rosy in the land of the 2023 African champions. Following the recent outcry from women footballers about their living conditions, it's now the turn of the men to take a chisel to the Ivorian soccer landscape. For over a week now, a crisis has been rocking the big club in the east of Côte d'Ivoire, ASI Abengourou, a Ligue 1 resident.

ASI Abengourou hit

The players and technical staff are demanding several months' unpaid wages. For this reason, they have refused to train for days. The management denied this until the local press and social networks got hold of it after several players denounced the situation. Ahead of their match on the 17th day of Ligue 1 on March 2, 2024, the athletes decided not to show up at the Parc des Sports in Treichville to face AS Denguélé. To calm things down, president Adou Bernard N'Gouan announced that he had settled the matter with the team.

"I have to say that when it comes to salaries, everything we've heard on the networks isn't fair. You don't owe someone five or six months. We've been called people who don't pay the players' wages, and all that wasn't fair. It was a bit unkind on the part of certain people who wanted to alienate us, our players and our fans. It has to be said that the salaries have been transferred to the respective banks. But it's true that some are behind schedule compared with others", said the president of ASI Abengourou on March 1, 2024, as he received the players to defuse the bombshell. Except that on March 2, 2024, just as they were due to resume competition, the players and coach protested again.

"The club owes me 5 months' salary"

This time, it was the coach who set the tone. Indeed, he was not present at the conclave with the players. He didn't appreciate the situation. So he left them to their own devices on the Parc des Sports pitch against Denguélé (1-1). He left the stadium immediately after kick-off, before giving his views to Sport News Africa. As for the players, they played the entire match.

"I accept it. It's a way for me to denounce the lack of respect shown to coaches by clubs. The directors met with the players to denigrate me, even though I'm claiming my rights, and the club owes me 5 months' salary because the month of February is over. Six (6) months to the goalkeeping coach and 4 months to my assistant have also not been paid. Last week, I was asked to resume training, but nothing has changed. I'm told the same thing, that there's a problem with one person's transfer order and that's what's holding things up. It's an argument that doesn't fly. They told the players yesterday (March 1, 2024, editor's note) that if I don't do the match, I'll be sacked. So I'm waiting for my letter of dismissal and they'll pay me my arrears. The federation has been informed", blasted the Ivorian technician, Oussou Israël.

Oussou Israël a quitté ASI Abengourou
Oussou Israël a quitté ASI Abengourou

The overall debt owed by ASI Abengourou to its athletes and technical staff, forwarded to the FIF, so far amounts to 46,158 euros, i.e. 14,253 for the coaches and 31,905 euros for the players, which includes salaries, match bonuses and signing bonuses.

"To date, we owe them (the players and staff, editor's note) all the salary for the month of January 2024 and that of February, which has just ended", finally acknowledged Diomandé Lanciné, delegate president, who promised that everything would be back in order during the month of March 2024.

Club presidents complain

Finger-pointing in this muddle, club presidents are blaming the situation. For many, the salary and bonus problems they are experiencing are due to the blocking of their subsidies. "When a club doesn't submit its financial statements to us at the end of the month, we don't give it its money. »says Armand Gohourou, Executive Director of the Federation.

This has the knack of infuriating the clubs. "The Federation needs to know that the subsidy is due. We mustn't chase after it. The clubs produce a show, so they're entitled to TV rights money without a beacon," complains a president who didn't want to be named. "Our cheques for January and February are still with FIF and we haven't got them back yet. You can call FIF to check," asserts Diomandé Lanciné to justify the problems facing ASI Abengourou.

Against this backdrop, the Union des footballeurs professionnels de Côte d'Ivoire (Ufpci) has decided to raise its voice. "As an association for the defense of players' rights, we are following the problem closely. The president of ASI has already been summoned to the labor court in Abidjan. But we have to do it in Abengourou. He's a politician who thinks he's untouchable. We make sure that contracts between players and clubs are respected, and we'll make sure we keep our line. In addition, we organize training seminars, as we did during the AFCON 2023 with former European soccer greats such as Djibril Cissé, a Frenchman of Ivorian origin, and set up retraining projects for our members", explained Ufpci boss Zoro Marc.



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