Liberia’s President George Weah on Monday urged Nigeria to get their preparation right for the World Cup and avoid wranglings over cash that have plagued previous appearances.
The former Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan forward took office in January on a promise to turn around the impoverished West African nation.
On an official visit to meet his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari, he praised the Super Eagles for getting to Russia, calling them “a model” for African teams to follow.
“I have played with great Nigerian players, I played against them. Now you have a new generation, the fact that they qualified is a good thing for Nigeria,” he said.
“But I hope they’ll prepare very early because they’re going to represent Africa and we’ll be there to watch them, for them to bring the trophy for the first time if it’s possible.”
Weah, a global sporting superstar in the 1990s who remains Africa’s only Ballon d’Or winner, said recurring stories of unpaid fees and bonuses disrupted players.
It also gave them an excuse when they under-performed. “So, let the players not have an excuse, support them and bring back the cup,” he added.
Weah’s comments echo those of Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr, who has said he wants “stable preparations and credible participations… without any distractions”.
The Nigeria Football Federation said last November it would pay players and officials a total of $2.4 million as a bonus for securing qualification.
Players deliberately missed a training session in Brazil in 2014 as a protest when the qualification bonus was not paid.
The tournament in Russia will be Nigeria’s sixth appearance at the global finals and they have reached the knockout rounds three times, in 1994, 1998 and 2014.