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‘Loudmouth’ Waldrum humbling NFF

Without a doubt, the most topical issues in Nigeria at the moment are fuel subsidy removal and the impressive performances of the Super Falcons at…

Without a doubt, the most topical issues in Nigeria at the moment are fuel subsidy removal and the impressive performances of the Super Falcons at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. However, my interest is more on the Super Falcons because I don’t know much about the messy petrol business in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, I have since given up on the issue of subsidy removal because unless a miracle happens, it can only get worse.

Talking about the Super Falcons, most Nigerians are surprised by the overwhelming performances of the team in Australia because many didn’t see it coming. Before the tournament commenced, the odds were heavily against the nine-time African champions. Apart from the fact that they only managed to qualify for the global football showpiece, the Super Falcons found themselves in a ‘group of death’ with reigning Olympic champions Canada, co-host Australia and the Republic of Ireland.

Despite their continental achievements, based on FIFA rankings, the Super Falcons were considered as the underdogs in the group because Canada are ranked 7th, the Aussies are ranked 10th, Ireland are 22nd while the Super Falcons are 40th on the global ranking. This was not a surprise because the team under Coach Randy Waldrum had underperformed in the build up to the World Cup.

And apart from finding themselves in the ‘group of death’, a few days to the kick-off of the competition, the camp of the Super Eagles was in complete disarray. There was an open confrontation between the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and its employee, Waldrum who decided to engage the former in a verbal war. The bone of contention was money and undue interference as alleged by the coach. The American accused the NFF of non-payment of his salaries, imposition of players, hiccups in preparations for the World Cup and misappropriation of FIFA grant.

Shocked by Waldrum’s unexpected outburst which it considered to be an act of insubordination, the NFF then threw caution to the winds as it pursued the coach the way a foolish man would run naked after a mad man who took away his clothes. Instead of stopping at its responses to the issues raised, the NFF hurled insults at Waldrum, referring to him as the worst coach to ever handle the Super Falcons.

Permit me to share with you a piece of the damning verdict passed on Waldrum by the NFF. “We have first to ask when the European season ended. The man wanted a two-week camp for only home-based professionals. Two weeks ago, he released his final list of 23. There was absolutely no need for any camping for home-based again except to waste resources.

“Instead of admitting his glaring deficiencies, he is there shooting his mouth off. He knows he will not have Rasheedat Ajibade and Halimatu Ayinde for the opening match against Canada, yet he left Ngozi Okobi and Regina out from the squad. His outbursts are nothing but an afterthought. He’s only talking three days before the team’s World Cup departure.”

I can’t recall what exactly Waldrum did again to infuriate the NFF the more but the federation then launched a final onslaught on what was left of his reputation as a coach. He was called incompetent coach with a loudmouth. “Incompetent loudmouth. Now he’s found his voice since he’s about to achieve his only ambition of leading a team at a Women’s World Cup.” The tone of the last salvo at Waldrum indicated that the NFF felt it had done Waldrum a big favour by giving him a platform to realize his life-time ambition so he should have remained quiet even as things weren’t going the way he wanted.

As a matter of fact, the bickering between the NFF and Waldrum was unnecessary considering that the World Cup tournament was just around the corner. I am sure if the coach had not spoken on the eve of the competition and if the NFF had the financial capacity to pay him off, he would have been given the boot.

However, having realized that it was in a tight corner, the NFF reluctantly allowed the coach to lead the Super Falcons to the tournament. But not everyone in the football house believed the coach was going to achieve anything with the team.

Like I wrote in one of my articles, the events that happened between the NFF and Waldrum were like mind games being played by two opponents. Each was only preparing grounds for the blame game to be played later. The NFF wanted to exonerate itself ahead of time while the coach on his part attempted to incite Nigerians against the NFF before any disaster that might occur.

Well, we are living witnesses to what is playing out at the World Cup. After recording a barren draw in their opening match against one of the best teams in the World, the Super Falcons took down co-host Australia in their second match in an emphatic manner. They now need only a draw against already eliminated Ireland to reach the Round of 16.  Apart from the good results, the Super Falcons are convincing in their performances. I am sure even the NFF is wondering what is happening.

Personally, I am not surprised by what the Super Falcons have achieved so far. Their build-up to the World Cup wasn’t inspiring but most times when a Nigerian national team does not prepare very well for a tournament, it performs beyond expectations. This is exactly what the Super Falcons have done. So, the NFF and anyone who wrote off the players and their coach may have to take back their uncharitable words.

As we continue with our support for the Super Falcons to go beyond their best record of a quarterfinal finish at the 1999 World Cup in the USA, we must not forget that Waldrum has so far humbled his employers. He has won one and drawn one match against the NFF. If you don’t get my drift, contact me for details.

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