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NFF fires back at Randy Waldrum’s concerns with Nigerian women’s team lack of support for World Cup

Photo courtesy John Krysinsky

Earlier this week, as he prepares to lead the Nigerian National Women’s soccer team into the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia next month, Pitt women’s head soccer coach Randy Waldrum shared his concerns in dealing with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) on Pittsburgh Soccer Now‘s Sounding Off on Soccer podcast.

Since the podcast, after Nigerian media quickly reported some of Waldrum’s comments and NFF officials have responded.

Sounding Off on Soccer: Ahead of Women’s World Cup trek, Randy Waldrum sounds off concerns with Nigerian Football Federation

“I know we are not prepared the way we need to be. It’s been very frustrating in recent months and in particular, in recent weeks,” Waldrum said.

“We have less days than a college preseason to get ready for the World Cup. It blows my mind because we’ve known this since last year that we had qualified. The hard part is, we are supposed to have camp in Nigeria for about 10-12 days, then go directly to Australia to finish up with another 10-15 days.  For what ever it is, the Federation canceled the camp.”

On the Podcast, Waldrum explained some of the biggest rifts between the veteran coach and the Federation.

In addition to his massive success in guiding women’s college soccer programs to National Championships (twice at Notre Dame), Waldrum also coached the NWSL’s Houston Dash and served as Head Coach of Trinidad and Tobago’s women’s national team from 2014-16.

Among the primary concerns Waldrum addressed on the podcast included frustration with the federation’s meddling with his final roster selection for the World Cup, mainly over the choice to include veteran goalkeepers Tochukwu Oluehi and Yewande Balogun, who would back-up 22 year-old Chiamaka Nnadozie.

Waldrum shared that when the players went into a boycott following the team’s African Cup of Nations semifinal loss in penalty kicks to Morocco, because they still had not been paid, the NFF paid the team a visit in the hotel, where they were holding out prior to the team’s third place match.

In a meeting that lasted an hour and a half the night before the third place match with Zambia, the NFF paid them with ‘a little money’ and turned to the players for feedback.

Oluehi spoke out during that meeting.

“My backup goalkeeper spoke out, and said, every year to tell us the same thing.   You can’t just come here and expect us to believe you,” Waldrum shared.

“They didn’t like how she said it, so they dismissed her from the National team, and cut her off.  I was without my goalkeeper for two or three windows.  Finally the General Secretary and the President allowed her only if she wrote an apology letter.”

Waldrum felt strongly that his veteran keeper would be an important part of the World Cup roster.  The veteran keeper made significant life changes, taking the advice of Waldrum, to move from a collegiate coaching position in California, to go play professionally overseas primarily to prepare for the World Cup.

Pitt’s women’s head coach is facing criticisms from some in Nigeria and the Federation over the omissions of some players and the shunning of players who are part of the Nigerian domestic side for his final roster for the World Cup.

“They wanted me to put this goalkeeper on, who I never seen. Never been in one of our camps. I refused. I said, I can’t take a player I’ve never had in camp. It’s ridiculous who would do that, this is the World Cup,” Waldrum added.

In turn, Waldrum cited that it stated in his contract that he would have final say on player selections, as he opted to keep the three goalkeepers he had on the roster through AFCON and the most recent playing windows.  The Federation responded, in turn, by telling Waldrum that his right hand, American trailblazing women’s soccer icon, Lauren Gregg, who has been serving as Waldrum’s assistant, would not be able to make the trip.

Gregg’s credentials are impeccable, as she was the first-ever female assistant coach for any of the United States’ national teams between 1987 and 2000 and was interim head coach of the United States women’s national soccer team in 1997 and 2000. As head coach of the women’s soccer team at the University of Virginia from 1986 to 1995, Gregg was the first woman to lead a team to the NCAA Division I Final Four and to be named NSCAA Coach of the Year.

Gregg is a physician, as well as the co-author of The Champion Within: Training for Excellence.

Trailblazer Lauren Gregg adds a new chapter to her storied career -- and hails her mentors 07/13/2021

Randy Waldrum with Lauren Gregg in 2021 (Photo courtesy Soccer America)

Following Waldrum’s interview, NFF spokesperson, Ademola Olajire, provided a counter point.

Speaking with Journalist, Sam Amodu, the Olajire, on behalf of the NFF, said that Waldrum’s comments were counterproductive three days to his team’s departure and noted that he has already named his squad as well.

“You’re saying that you don’t know any home-based goalkeeper but you could pick players like Oluwatosin Demehin, Rofiat Imuran and Deborah Abiodun who had home-based goalkeepers with them at the same U20 WC where you spotted them.

“There is no need to say more. The WC is around the corner and he should simply concentrate on the task at hand.” NFF advised.

The Super Falcons face a formidable task in a challenging group that includes tournament hosts Australia and reigning Olympic Games champions Canada.

Waldrum and the team will have a 15-day training camp in Australia to prepare for the tournament, which begins July 20.  The Super Falcons will kickoff play against against Canada at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on July 21.

Nigerian Women’s Team World Cup Schedule 

Dates/Times – Eastern (US) Standard Time

July 20 – 10:30 p.m. — vs Canada (Group Stage Match 1)

July 27 – 6 a.m. — vs Australia (Group Stage Match 2)

July 31 – 6 a.m. — vs Republic of Ireland (Group Stage Match 3)

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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