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Randy Waldrum: Could American Stay on as Boss of Nigeria Women?

A month on from the expiration of his contract with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), there remains a lack of clarity surrounding the position of Randy Waldrum, the former coach of the Nigeria women’s national team.

The 67-year-old led the Super Falcons to the last 16 at the Women’s World Cup in August but the American has been missing in action since their elimination at the hands of England in Brisbane.

In his stead, Justin Madugu has taken caretaker charge of qualifying matches for next year’s Olympic Games and the 2024 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

The messaging coming out of the NFF has been decidedly mixed, with successive communiques both affirming and denouncing his standing as Nigeria coach.

A particular bone of contention has been a sense of divided loyalties, as Waldrum combined the Nigeria job with working for the University of Pittsburgh, whose women’s team he also managed throughout his time with the West Africans.

“The coach appeared to prioritise his other commitments in the United States,” a top NFF official, who did not want to be named, told BBC Sport Africa.

“Managing a country like Nigeria should not be on a part-time basis.”

Waldrum had been expected to put in an appearance on the eve of the Olympic double-header against Ethiopia late last month, but it was Madugu who guided Nigeria to a 5-1 aggregate win over the East Africans.

He followed that up with a 5-0 win against Cape Verde in the first leg of their Women’s Nations Cup second-round qualifying tie in Abuja on Thursday.

Short of reiterating his incumbency, little has been heard from Waldrum in the months following the World Cup, a fact that plays into one of the major concerns within the NFF.

In September the NFF stated it would “ensure meritocracy in the composition of new coaching crews” for its various women’s sides “within the shortest possible time”.

A lack of available funds is also a background issue for the NFF, with one member of its executive committee saying the organisation would like to terminate the contract of men’s national coach Jose Peseiro – even after the Portuguese accepted a pay cut in September.

“There may be (changes) because of the financial position of the federation,” the NFF official added.

“The board has not discussed the possibility of extending Waldrum’s tenure. Nothing has been decided yet for certain.”

War of words

Waldrum’s reluctance to look to the Nigeria Women’s Football League (NWFL) for talent has also sparked some consternation from pundits and fans.

With the local league beset by issues surrounding administration and logistics, the national teams play a key role in the promotion and development of domestic-based players.

The other side of the argument would point to the fact that Waldrum has had to work under a number of restrictions over the course of his employment by the NFF, most notably late and infrequent salary payments.

He also famously got into a public war of words with his employers after questioning the distribution of funds received from world governing body Fifa, as well as alleging a breach of contract and claiming a lack of support.

The NFF’s defence, as set forth by its director of communications Ademola Olajire, was essentially to respond with a personal attack and there is clearly no love lost between the parties involved.

However, Waldrum exceeded expectations at the Women’s World Cup, taking Nigeria through an unbeaten campaign that featured three clean sheets and only exiting against eventual runners-up England after a penalty shoot-out.

This has earned him credibility and support from some quarters, with former NFF president Amaju Pinnick leading the lobbying for the American to be retained and allowed to build on the relative success in Australia.

Waldrum also enjoys some approval from within the Super Falcons squad – albeit not unanimously.

His willingness to fight their cause publicly, as well as his player management, has brought a number of them onside.

“He’s not just a coach; he’s a father, he’s an advisor, he’s a mentor, he’s just a man with grit and lots of good attributes,” midfielder Deborah Abiodun told Nigeria’s Punch newspaper.

“He has contributed to my life positively.”

There have, however, been fallings out with the likes of forward Ngozi Okobi, who has played for the national side for over a decade but was axed from the World Cup squad.

With the ongoing lack of consensus within the leadership of Nigerian football, it remains to be seen what the future holds for Waldrum.

Madugu. who had been a member of the backroom staff since 2009, is set to oversee the second leg of the Women’s Nations Cup qualifier against Cape Verde on Tuesday, while Olympic qualifiers against Cameroon (19 and 28 February) lurk further on the horizon.

Source : BBC