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

<span><een klas=Nigeria“clutch ” href=”” data-i13n=”sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link” data-ylk=”slk:Uchenna Kanu;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0″>Uchenna Kanu (middle) celebrates with Ifeoma Onumonu (left) and Asisat Oshoala during October’s 4-0 win over Ethiopia.Photo: Shengolpixs/Alamy” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ a9d1d8b3992f” data-src= “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ d8b3992f”/>

After Nigeria’s commendable performance at the last World Cup, which almost saw eventual finalists England defeated in the last 16, the natural progression for the Super Falcons, the most successful national team in the history of African football, with nine African titles , be serious. medal candidates at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

But their presence as one of the two African representatives at the Summer Games is anything but certain. Although Nigeria has never managed to qualify for the Women’s World Cup since its inception in 1991, qualifying for the Olympics has been a whole different fruit bowl. It’s the banana peel the Falcons keep slipping on.

Should they qualify for Paris, it will be the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “It is really embarrassing for us, as the most dominant team in African football, that we have not qualified for the Olympics for so long,” a key federation official admitted to the Guardian.

“If we are honest, the problem is caused by the way we, the NFF [Nigeria Football Federation], have mismanaged the team’s affairs over the years, especially in the period leading up to the Olympic Games qualifiers, especially after playing in a World Cup the year before. We always have disputes over World Cup allowances and this makes the team disorganized and unfocused during Olympic qualifying matches. It is not acceptable.”

Relations between Randy Waldrum, the American coach who has been in charge of Nigeria since October 2020, and the NFF are anything but smooth. Waldrum was complimented for the impressive work he did at the World Cup and told the Guardian he wanted a new contract to extend beyond October last year.

But despite NFF president Ibrahim Gusau stating that an extension would be granted, Waldrum was only given a new deal last month. Waldrum was fierce 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 it weren’t for the players been.

In the two and a half months between the contracts, Waldrum, who also serves as head coach of the University of Pittsburgh women’s team, had no active involvement with the Falcons and focused on the competitive commitments of his American college team. Waldrum was well aware that the NFF – which he said owed him 14 months’ wages before the World Cup – has an extremely poor record of paying wages promptly. That’s why Waldrum made keeping the job in Pittsburgh a condition, in collaboration with international management. for staying.

Justin Madugu, one of Waldrum’s Nigerian assistants at the World Cup, took over temporarily and took charge of the Olympic qualifier against Ethiopia. Waldrum will oversee this month’s qualifier against Nigeria’s arch-rivals Cameroon, with the first leg next Monday, and a final qualifier awaiting the winners.

Perpetua Nkwocha, a four-time African Footballer of the Year for Nigeria and now a coach in Sweden, is baffled by the continued failure to qualify for the Olympics. “There is no continuity in the system, both within the coaching team and with the players,” she says. “They should be kept together to train and play friendly matches for better understanding. The players have little time to prepare for a tournament as big as the Olympics… provide better facilities for the players and take care of them if you expect the best from the players.”

Key Super Falcons players have opted out of the Olympic qualifying tournaments for several publicly stated reasons. The basis appears to be a financial dispute with the NFF over unpaid money, some of which is said to date back to 2021. The NFF said in August that any outstanding payments would be made.

“The administrative failure [of the NFF] to secure Randy Waldrum 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’s ranks.”

Many blame Gusau for disrupting team momentum, saying he inexplicably delayed giving Waldrum a contract extension. But he insists the criticism has been unfair.

“Nobody asked me why we had problems with the contract,” he told The Guardian. “The most important thing is that he is now back and working.” Several questions to Mohammed Sanusi, the NFF general secretary, remained unanswered.

Waldrum’s return will only count if Nigeria’s 16-year Olympic drought ends this summer. It is far from certain that we have to contend with Cameroon.

Discussion points

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

Women’s FA Cup: Manchester City travels to Tottenham in the quarter-finals, after winning 1-0 at Arsenal in the fifth round. In the remaining matches of Monday’s draw, 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’ upcoming friendlies against Austria and Italy, which will be played in Spain on February 23 and February 27 respectively.

Quote of the day

Profiling yourself as a coach is essential. Try to make sure what you say reflects your attitude towards people. Being passive aggressive or leaving something unexplained is extremely damaging to a team. What and how you say things matters” – Randy Waldrum, Nigeria’s head coach.

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