To play for a club in a top league outside the shores of Africa, unarguably, remains the dream of every homegrown Nigerian footballer, but, somehow, unfortunate cases such as Michael Uchebo’s at Portuguese club, Boavista manages to springs up.
Uchebo, who once featured alongside Lionel Messi’s Argentina at the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil has had his case at the Porto based club deteriorate, significantly.
The lanky striker who signed for the Primera Liga side three months after the quadrennial showpiece alleges that he has not been paid his dues since March, and has been forced to train in isolation for a huge chunk of the year.
“I’ve been dying in silence, with nobody to help me,” said Uchebo.
“I remember going to have a shop and not having money to buy something; I came to [Boavista] and said I needed money for food.
“They haven’t paid my house rent, haven’t paid for my electricity – I remember two days when I didn’t have any electricity in my house. They didn’t care; they don’t give me any money and don’t care for me.”
The 26-year-old forward whose current contract runs until 30 June, 2017 also claimed that he was refused a chance to end his sour relationship with the club after two sides enquired about him, prior to the transfer window deadline.
“I told them: ‘You’ve stopped me training for two months, you’re not paying my salary and, now I have an option, I want to go; I don’t ask for the money, I just want to continue my career.’”
“They said I couldn’t train, they wouldn’t give me anything to train, eat with the team or go where the team was eating.
“At the end of August I told the club president [Álvaro Braga Júnior] that my family had problems because they still hadn’t paid me my salary. He told me: ‘I don’t pay you, I won’t pay you any money, just go.’ In September they asked me to take one month’s salary to leave but the transfer window had closed, so where did they want me to go?”
Compatriot Uche Nwofor, whom they both once turned out for Boavista, was also reportedly subject to this treatment. But he was afforded a route out of the estranged Portuguese top division side, with a compensation fee in £110,000 agreed upon his move to Slovakian side AS Trencin. A deal which is yet to be obliged to.
So far, videos have since surfaced to confirm the unfair treatment being afforded the former VVV Venlo player, and his countryman.
Footages ranging from him being refused access into the club’s edifice by securities, to recordings of the club president, Álvaro Braga Júnior dismissing, and claiming a party to the deal.
Shocking video! Boavista president to 🇳🇬's Uchebo "We will NOT pay your 3 months salary arrears BUT if you cancel contract we will pay more" pic.twitter.com/jd0O2sdTqZ— Oluwashina Okeleji (@oluwashina) November 22, 2016
However, backings from the global players’ union Fifpro and the Portuguese Sindicato dos Jogadores Profissionais de Futebol [SJPF], have since weighed in.
“This case embarrasses the country and Portuguese football,” SJPF president Joaquim Evangelista told the Guardian.
“Like any other player Michael just wants to do his job. Every day he hopes the nightmare will end. He just wants to play again. The club is repeatedly violating the obligations established in his contract.”
For Uchebo, who said he is 'scared and confused’ of the whole debacle, being free from all the terrors and miseries posed by the Panthers would do.