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Most players stand to gain more from advancement than simply pride.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

SEOUL (Thursday, June 6, 2002) -- Anyone who thinks players are at the World Cup solely for home and country, motivated only by national pride, might be sadly disappointed. Many will come away from their time in Japan or South Korea considerably wealthier, depending on how far their teams advance in the competition.

Incentive bonuses paid by national federations for success are nothing new, especially because those federations themselves earn millions of dollars more as their teams go further in the tournament. However, bonuses exploded for France í98 and again for this Cup with what once were considered almost token payments soaring with negotiations handled by lawyers and agents representing the players.

At one end of the scale are the players from Saudi Arabia. The world's richest kingdom would not say exactly what bonus its players would get, but each player already received $17,500 for qualifying from the countryís soccer association, plus a Mercedes automobile and personal gifts from varying members of the Saudi royal family. Winning the World Cup was rumored to be worth $1 million per player, something that was not denied, but quickly became moot. After losing 8-0 to Germany and 1-0 to Cameroon, Saudi Arabia became the first nation among 32 to be eliminated from advancement.

At the other end of the scale is Argentina, the nation considered by many the favorite to capture the Cup. The country is tottering on insolvency with the Argentine Football Association nearly bankrupt and unable to pay its players past bonuses they still are owed.

Head coach Marcelo Bielsa is said to be owed $490,000 in back salary. Not only have the players been told that if they win, they will likely get no bonuses whatsoever, several who enjoy rich contracts with European clubs, chipped in their own money to upgrade the teamís travel arrangements to Japan to first class.

A typical bonus schedule is enjoyed by Englandís players, the result of hard bargaining by a playersí committee, headed by captain David Beckham. Should England win the Cup, each player will earn $280,000. Lesser bonuses will be payed should the British advance from advance from Group F and for each victory thereafter in the single-elimination phase.

Four years ago, the American players received bonuses for each group match in which they appeared even though the United States lost all three. Some in the U.S. Soccer Federation thought the players received too much, given the disappointing result, so now they will be paid less for simply playing in the first round and more should they advance. Getting to the second round means $1.85 million will be added to the playersí payment pool with additional bonuses for each victory. Where capturing the World Cup would have meant $414,000 to each player in 1998, now the sum would be more than $500,000.

The U.S.ís Group D opponent South Korea promised its players $96,920 each from team organizers and from the government, plus a new Hyundai car, for advancing to the second round. Winning the Cup would earn their coach Guus Hiddink a cool $1 million bonus.

Players on other teams will earn varying amounts for winning. The German who plays in every match, including a victory in the title game, will make about $200,000, including $83,000 for the final win.

The Italians will earn about $154,000 each if the "Azzurri'' win the Cup. In a system where anything less than a championship is apparently considered failure, each Italian will be paid a reported $36,280 for getting to the final and losing.

Brazil already has won its first match, but reportedly still hasnít completed a deal with its players, who apparently are not thrilled with the situation. Ricardo Teixeira, president of the Brazilian Soccer Confederation, met with a delegation of players to work out an agreement on prize money and said he will announce exact figures in a few days, with around $150,000 per player the bonus should Brazil go all the way.

Also said to be without a deal are players from Cameroon and Senegal which, of course, opened the tournament by shocking defending champion France 1-0.

Cameroonís players threatened a strike and refused to leave for Japan for almost a week until they were paid, in cash, the bonuses they were owed for qualifying, reportedly a little more than $40,000 per man. Senegal also was late paying qualifying bonuses before the players eventually settled for about $13,500 each, much less than originally promised.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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