YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — Cameroon’s World Cup team refused to board a plane due to take them to Brazil on Sunday because of a long-running dispute over bonus payments for the tournament, forcing their national federation to take out a loan to meet their demands.
In a statement, the Cameroon Football Federation said it “regrets to announce” that the squad’s departure from Yaounde on a plane put aside for its use had been delayed. The federation said it had taken out a “private loan” to meet player demands, and would now increase the sum given to each squad member by around $12,000. The total bonus was not disclosed.
Cameroon team spokesman Raphael Nkoa had told The Associated Press that a “certain number of issues” had to be resolved and the squad did not depart as planned on Sunday morning. They would fly later Sunday, Nkoa and the federation insisted.
World body FIFA also said it had been given assurances that the Cameroon party would leave Yaounde on Sunday night and arrive in Brazil on Monday, just four days ahead of the team’s World Cup opener against Mexico on Friday.
“FIFA has assurances that the Cameroon team will fly tonight,” the world body said on Sunday.
Cameroon opens against Mexico in Natal and also plays Croatia and Brazil in the group stage.
Cameroon’s players — which include Europe-based stars like Chelsea’s Samuel Eto’o and Barcelona’s Alex Song — have been in dispute with federation officials since last month, when the team threatened to boycott a training session at a pre-tournament preparation camp in Austria because the World Cup bonuses promised weren’t enough.
The problems appeared to be partially resolved by the time the squad returned to Cameroon for a final warm-up game against Moldova on Saturday, but re-surfaced the morning the party was due to head to Brazil. Local reports in the West African nation said some players even refused to take part in a farewell ceremony with government officials after beating Moldova 1-0 in Yaounde.
On Sunday, the federation said it had been unable to give players the money they requested because it would not receive World Cup payments from FIFA until after the tournament. The federation resorted to borrowing the money. Each country going to the World Cup gets $1.5 million from FIFA to help in its preparations and is guaranteed at least $8 million in prize money.
Cameroon’s players have previously had standoffs with the national federation over bonus payments, once ahead of the 2002 World Cup and most recently in 2011 when the team refused to leave its hotel in Morocco to travel to Algeria for a friendly game.
Following the dispute in Morocco, captain and lead striker Eto’o was banned for 15 matches by the federation for his part in the player strike. The punishment was later cut to four games.