Cameroon Reportedly Refuse to Board 2014 World Cup Flight Due to Bonus-Money Row

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Cameroon Reportedly Refuse to Board 2014 World Cup Flight Due to Bonus-Money Row
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Updates from Friday, June 13

Mark Gleeson of Reuters has the latest on the dispute:

In an open letter to the Cameroon people, Eto'o said last weekend's strike - which included refusing to accept a symbolic flag from the prime minister and delaying their departure for Brazil by almost a day in a haggle over World Cup money - was a search for "improvements that will benefit future generations".

"I fought for what I believe to be legitimate: the right of my team mates for their bonuses so that they can give the best of themselves for their country," said Eto'o ahead of Cameroon's opening Group A match against Mexico in Natal on Friday.

[...]

"There have been misunderstandings, certainly. However, we are satisfied with a happy end. We hope that all those who were offended by our insistence are able to forgive us," Eto'o, 33, added in the letter distributed to reporters on Friday.

Updates from Sunday, June 8

According to BBC Sport, the Cameroonian team has settled their wage dispute:

The squad took off from Yaounde 12 hours late and was scheduled to touch down in Brazil on Sunday evening.

Team coach Volker Finke had said players were complaining that the £61,000 they were due to be paid for figuring in the World Cup was not enough.

After agreeing an end to the row, Cameroon Football Federation president Joseph Owona said: "Everything has been resolved.

"We have opted for transparency. There is no problem and I think the team needs to be mobilised for all to look in one direction."

Original Text

A FIFA World Cup already rocked by riots and issues with infrastructure in the host nation has received another blow, as Cameroon's players are refusing to make the trip to Brazil.

The bizarre incident, reported by French publication L'Equipe and relayed by Eurosport UK, revolves around the players' bonus pay for participation in the tournament.

According to Eurosport UK, L'Equipe claims the Cameroonian government has yet to meet its players' demands:

L'Equipe are reporting that the squad played their recent friendly matches in the hope that the issue of their share of FIFA's bonus money would be resolved before the World Cup began.

But the Cameroonian government's most recent offers have still not proved satisfactory, causing greater and greater disquiet. This week the players refused to take the national flag from the prime minister in their traditional pre-tournament ceremony, forcing coach Volker Finke to step in to avoid too much public embarrassment.

And now it seems that the squad have opted to stay in their hotel rather than heading to the airport, despite supporters urging them to get on the plane.

This has created an ugly stand-off between the players and their federation, and it is one that is going to likely require FIFA's intervention.

International football's governing body had better move quickly to find a solution; Cameroon are in the same group as host nation Brazil, who kick off the tournament against Croatia on Thursday.

Unlike in previous tournaments, the African nation is not expected to have much of an impact. Finke's squad is still heavily reliant on the exploits of veteran striker Samuel Eto'o.

But the 33-year-old will need quality support from FC Lorient attacker Vincent Aboubakar, assuming the squad actually gets on the plane to Brazil, of course.

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Vincent Aboubakar is set to support star striker Samuel Eto'o.

Count on that happening eventually, as this incident is not without precedent. In 2002, the players' pay was not even guaranteed on the eve of the tournament, per The Telegraph.

In that instance, it took a presidential intervention to resolve the dispute, as The Telegraph noted:

The Indomitable Lions were expected at Nakatsue last Sunday, but players refused to travel because their World Cup pay had not been guaranteed.

Cameroon president Paul Biya then intervened for that problem to be resolved late on Tuesday afternoon and the team left Paris' Charles de Gaulle shortly before midnight on their chartered B757 flight.

After a stopover in Bombay, the journey resumed this morning but, according to reports in the French press, had to land in Bangkok because the pilot had not received clearance to fly over Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

There was an ominous precursor to this year's incident when the Cameroonian FA cancelled the team's final preparation game before the tournament, against Guatemala, without reason, per Eurosport UK.

With the 2014 World Cup opening on Thursday and Cameroon scheduled to play Mexico the day after, all interested parties need to act fast to settle this alleged dispute.

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