by Ian Ranson
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Nigeria heads into the Women’s World Cup with pay disputes still festering, but the players have put their grievances aside to focus on their opener against Canada on Friday, coach Randy Waldrum said.
The ‘Super Falcons’ have won their last three friendlies against New Zealand, Haiti and Costa Rica, but off the pitch they have been at odds with the Nigerian football association over wages and conditions.
In a podcast earlier this month, American Waldrum said it was owed seven months’ salary and some of its players hadn’t been paid in two years.
Nigerian media reported that the team was considering boycotting World Cup matches in Australia and New Zealand, but Waldrum said none of his players would opt out of the Canada squad in Melbourne on Friday.
“We’ll be there. All of that happened before we came here and I think the team, once we all got here, focused on Canada,” the American told Reuters after training on Wednesday.
“We met about it the first night we arrived and at that point we all agreed not to discuss it any further, not to let it be there and that we are here to do a job.
“Let’s focus on that job and let the right people take care of it.”
Waldrum declined to provide details about his players’ complaints, but was not confident they would be resolved by the end of July 20-August 20. 20 tournament.
“I really do not know. Coming from the US and working with the federation, I found out very quickly that things happen at a very different pace than what you may be used to or what we are used to in our culture,” he said.
The Nigerian Football Federation did not provide immediate comment.
Texan Waldrum, former coach of the US team Houston Dash, praised his players for focusing on work as they seek to reach the knockout rounds of one of the toughest groups, which includes hosts Australia and newcomers Ireland.
“I’ve been pleased because this could very easily weigh down and be a burden on the team, but I haven’t seen that they have allowed that to happen,” he added.
“They have handled everything very professionally.
“I don’t think any of the players will comment on it during the tournament.”
Wage complaints have overshadowed the run-up to the World Cup, with Olympic champions Canada and Euro 2022 champions England among a host of teams wanting more from their federations.
Other sides have lamented a lack of resources to prepare properly, including Jamaica, whose players turned to crowdfunding to help cover costs.
Waldrum said Nigeria, an 11-time champion of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, had the means to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup, but the expectations of home fans to be at the top of women’s football were unrealistic.
“At some point you have to realize all the things we do on a day-to-day basis about how the federation treats players and how they provide resources for proper training, travel and all those issues,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean Nigeria or any of the African nations at this World Cup can’t achieve a lot and have a great career.
“But if you want to be a top-tier team year after year, obviously you have to be willing to provide more resources.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)