Can Nigeria rise above ‘avoidable chaos’ and end Olympic drought?

<a rang=Nigeria“connection ” href=”” data-i13n=”nozzle: material-canvas; subsec:anchor_text; moth: context_link” data-ilk=”slk: Uchenna Kanu; nozzle: material-canvas; subsection:anchor_text; moth:context_link;itc:0″>Uchenna Kanu does (middle) celebrate with Ifeoma Onumonu (left) and Asisat Oshoala during October’s 4-0 win over Ethiopia.Photo: Shengolpixs/Alamy” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/” data-src = “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/”/>

After Nigeria’s creditable performance at the last World Cup, almost beating eventual rivals England in the last 16, the progression is natural for the Super Falcons, the most successful national team in the history of African football, with nine an African title, to be serious. medal winners at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

But his presence as one of Africa’s two representatives at the summer Games is anything but certain. Although Nigeria has failed to qualify for the Women’s World Cup since its inception in 1991, qualifying for the Olympic Games has been another fruit bowl. It’s the banana skin the Falcons keep slipping on.

If they qualify for Paris, it will be their first appearance since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. “It is a shame for us, as the most dominant team in African football, not to have qualified for the Olympic Games for a long time,” a chief official of the confederation admitted to the Guardian.

“If we are honest, the way we do it, the NFF, is what caused the problem [Nigeria Football Federation], managed the team’s affairs badly over the years, especially in the run-up to the qualifying games for the Olympic Games, especially after they played in the World Cup the year before. We always have disputes about allowances from the World Cup and that makes the team disorganized and unfocused on the Olympic qualifiers. It is not acceptable.”

The relationship between Randy Waldrum, the American coach who has been in charge of Nigeria since October 2020, and the NFF has been anything but smooth. Waldrum was praised for his impressive work at the World Cup and told the Guardian that he wanted a new contract to last beyond last October.

But despite the president of the NFF, Ibrahim Gusau, stating that an extension would be granted, Waldrum did not receive a new deal until last month. Waldrum was scathing in his criticism of the NFF over a range of issues in an explosive interview with the On The Whistle podcast just before the World Cup, saying he “would have quit this job a long time ago” if not for the players .

In the two-and-a-half months between contracts, Waldrum, who doubles as the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh women’s team, was not actively involved with the Falcons, focusing on his USA college team tournament commitments. Well aware that the NFF – which he said had a 14-month salary before the World Cup – has a poor record of paying wages promptly, Waldrum kept the Pittsburgh job, and did it with him. the international management, as a prerequisite. for stay.

Justin Madugu, one of Waldrum’s assistants for Nigeria at the World Cup, took temporary charge in the interim, handling the Olympic qualifier against Ethiopia. Waldrum will oversee this month’s qualifier against Nigeria’s arch-rivals Cameroon, with the first leg away on Monday, with one final tie awaiting the winners.

Perpetua Nkwocha, the four-time African footballer of the year with Nigeria and now a coach in Sweden, is disappointed by the perennial failure to qualify for the Olympics. “There is no continuity in the system, both within the coaching staff and the players,” she says. “They should be kept together to train and play as friends for better understanding. The players don’t have a lot of time to prepare for a competition as big as the Olympics … better provide for the players and take care of them, if you expect the best from the players.”

The main players of the Super Baboons opted out of the Olympic qualifiers for various publicly stated reasons. It appears to be a financial dispute with the NFF over unpaid money, some of which was said to be as far back as 2021. The NFF said in August that any outstanding payments would be made.

“The administrative failure [of the NFF] Getting Randy Waldrum safe after the World Cup plunged the team into avoidable chaos,” says Nigerian women’s football expert, Samuel Ahmadu. “Waldrum’s return will obviously force a change in the tactical coaching approach and fragmentation within the squad ranks.”

Many blame Gusau for disrupting the team’s momentum, saying he caused an inexplicable delay in giving Waldrum a contract extension. But he insists the criticism was unfair.

“No one asked me why we had problems with the contract,” he tells the Guardian. “The important thing is that he’s back now and he’s working.” Several inquiries to Mohammed Sanusi, the secretary general of the NFF, went unanswered.

Waldrum’s return will only be possible if Nigeria’s 16-year Olympic drought is ended this summer. With Cameroon to contend with, that is far from certain.

Talking points

Wafcon 2024: Patrice Motsepe, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), told the Guardian that no date has been set for the 2024 African Women’s Cup of Nations (Wafcon) to be held in Morocco. With the summer Olympic football tournament, the Wafcon cannot be staged during that period and no agreement has been reached with Fifa on a suitable date.

Women’s FA Cup: Manchester City will travel to Tottenham in the quarter-finals after winning 1-0 at Arsenal in the fifth round. In the other ties from Monday’s draw, holders Chelsea travel to Everton, Brighton host Manchester United and Liverpool entertain Leicester.

England gets a lift: Leah Williamson is back in Sarina Wiegman’s squad for the Lionesses’ friendlies against Austria and Italy, which will be played in Spain on February 23 and February 27, respectively.

Quote of the day

Expressing yourself as a coach is essential. Try to make sure that what you say is in line with your attitude towards people. Being passive aggressive or leaving something unexplained will really hurt your team. It’s what and how you say things that matters” – Randy Waldrum, head coach of Nigeria.

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