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The needless war of words between NFF and Waldrum

The popular saying that a house divided against itself can never stand seems meaningless to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and its employee, Coach Randy…

The popular saying that a house divided against itself can never stand seems meaningless to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and its employee, Coach Randy Waldrum because the two are presently engaged in a war of words over the Super Falcons’ preparation and readiness for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Therefore, there is a serious fire on the mountain as the team continues to grapple with its preparations for the world championship billed to kick off on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

Trouble started a few days ago when the American handler of the Super Falcons granted a seemingly harmless interview in which he allegedly said his employers were deliberately sabotaging the team’s preparations for the mundial.

It is said the coach is not happy that his request for at least 10 days camping in Nigeria for the home-based players was turned down by the NFF. According to the coach, his employers have decided to frustrate him because he had rejected a ‘substandard’ goalkeeper the federation wanted to impose on him.

Obviously unhappy with Waldrum’s unexpected outburst, the NFF also returned fire for fire as it said the coach had displayed technical deficiencies by his poor selection of players for the World Cup.

The NFF questioned his decision to drop quality players like Ngozi Okobi and Regina Otu when he knew he wasn’t going to have Rasheedat Ajibade and Halimatu Ayinde for the opening match against Canada. In the same stride, the NFF said the coach is angry because it had refused to waste scarce resources on his proposed camping in Nigeria. According to the NFF, camping the home-based players would have amounted to a waste of money because the local girls were not in the plans of the coach.

In another ugly incident related to the raging battle between the coach and the NFF, Ngozi Okobi, one of the players axed by the American gaffer, was said to have joined the fray when skillful midfielder  was reported as saying she was victimised by Waldrum. According to the report which went viral on social media, she said she was yanked off the final list because the coach hates her guts. The report went further that she said even said indigenous coaches are far better than the American. Although she has since denied ever granting such an interview, there can never be smoke without fire.

My opinion on what is happening is that both the NFF and the coach are only preparing our minds for the impending disaster in Australia and New Zealand. Like the man who saw tomorrow, the coach knows that her Falcons are not going to soar high enough, so to exonerate himself in advance, he must cook a good excuse to serve his critics when we are finally hit by another football disaster.

The NFF guys too have seen the writing on the wall and have refused to be caught napping. It is, for this reason, that they quickly announced to Nigerians and the whole world that they had given all the necessary support to the team, so the man to be held responsible in case of any failure is Waldrum.

Unfortunately, as the two are playing mind games, they seem not to care about the yearnings of millions of Nigerians who want the Super Falcons to excel at the World Cup.

It is also necessary to add that the present NFF can afford to publicly castigate and ridicule Waldrum because he was hired by the immediate past board. Therefore, those at the helm of affairs now believe that even if they question the suitability of the coach for the Super Falcons, they can be forgiven because they only inherited a bad product. But it is said when you point an accusing finger at someone, the rest point back at you. It will be hard to completely exonerate the NFF from the blame for the technical deficiencies so far exhibited by the coach.

For Okobi, if indeed she granted the interview, I can say she decided to throw caution to the wind because she knows that he who is down fears no fall. Already, she has missed the flight to Australia/New Zealand so she can afford to bare her mind with reckless abandon. Again, it is good that she is claiming her innocence. Maybe she was misquoted or there was an abuse of ‘off the record’. One is not saying Okobi should die in silence, but it is good to always tread with caution.

More importantly, I am worried about what will be the fate of the Super Falcons in Australia/New Zealand. I am deeply afraid for the team because multiple distractions a few days before the kick-off of such a big tournament can only lead to another sporting disaster. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, the two key actors in the team’s preparation are at war with each other. Although swords were temporarily sheathed yesterday for the farewell dinner for the team in Abuja, the hugging and exchange of pleasantries were for the cameras only. The war is far from over.

I remember vividly what happened in 2002 when the Super Eagles were preparing for the Japan/South Korea World Cup. The camp of the team was thrown into disarray following the shocking exclusion of top stars like Sunday Oliseh, Victor Ikpeba, Finidi George, Tijani Babangida, Victor Agali, and three others. The ‘rebels’ and their coaches, Amodu Shuaibu and Stephen Keshi of blessed memories, had protested against the then NFA over unpaid match bonuses and allowances at the 2002 AFCON in Mali.

Consequently, as important as they were, the players were dropped and replaced with untested players, and it was another heartbreak. The Super Eagles recorded one of their worst World Cup outings. After losses to Argentina and Sweden, they managed to get just a point in the last group match with the Three Lions of England to exit the tournament at the group stage.

Without a doubt, the bane of the Super Eagles was the crisis that enveloped their camp a few weeks before the Japan/South Korea World Cup. What preceded the disaster in Asia 21 years ago is what we are witnessing again. The camp of the Super Falcons appears to be in disarray and only a miracle will stop another sporting disaster from happening in a few weeks’ time. I am not a prophet of doom but he who fails to prepare prepares to fail.

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