Olympics: Controversy as officials ‘force’ Francisca Ordega on Falcons Coach

Tana Aiyejina

There’s a potential cold war brewing in the Super Falcons following allegations that two top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation were working to impose veteran forward Francisca Ordega on coach Randy Waldrum ahead of the women’s football event of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Olympics: Controversy as officials ‘force’ Francisca Ordega on Falcons coach

The 12-nation women’s football event in Paris gets underway July 25 with several of the teams already releasing their final 28-player squads and alternate players.

CSKA Moscow forward Ordega, is being forced on the American gaffer because of her close ties to the NFF officials, our correspondent learnt.

According to our sources, Ordega, 30, has not featured for the Falcons since she posted a below par performance at last year’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

A federation official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said several of the young players in the team, who fear they could be sacrificed for the ageing player, are aggrieved.

“A certain madam from the competitions department and another top official on the technical department are trying to impose Ordega on the list for the Olympics. A section of the players are not happy because this same player was imposed on the team at last year’s Women’s World Cup.

“They’ve been breathing down Waldrum’s neck trying to force the man to include Ordega,” our source said.

“Two officials, a male and female, are insisting that she be named in the squad for the trip to Paris.”

Tournament organisers allow for an additional four alternate players to the stipulated 18-woman squad, and why the likes of Australia (22 players), Japan (21 players), USA (21 players) have taken advantage of the rule by inviting more players to their squads, it was learnt that Waldrum was directed by top officials of the federation not to add four alternate players to his squad.

The officials, according to our sources, claimed the federation was cash strapped and couldn’t accommodate more players for the trip to Paris.

However, in a bid to ensure that the player makes the team, officials made a U-Turn and allegedly sent an alternate list to the organisers, which included Ordega’s name on the list, without Waldrum’s knowledge.

“They did four alternate players because they want to include Ordega in the team, after initially insisting that the coach shouldn’t add more players due to lack of funds.

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“Now, they want to see how they’ll force Waldrum to drop a player from the original 18 players to accommodate her,” our source added.

It was learnt that Waldrum insisted on having a home-based goalkeeper in the alternate list, in case the two keeper’s in the 18-woman list had issues, but Morufat Ademola, the Rivers Angels keeper, Waldrum’s preferred choice, was eventually dropped.

The federation’s General Secretary Dr Mohammed Sanusi said he couldn’t speak on the matter during a telephone chat with our correspondent on Saturday.

“I’m not a coach,so I can’t speak on that,” he said.

The Falcons are drawn in a difficult Group C that also has world champions Spain, former world champions Japan and South American champions Brazil at the Paris Games.They open their campaign July 25 against Brazil in Bordeaux.

The Falcons are not new to controversies before, during and after major tournaments.

The players threatened to boycott the last tournament over unpaid wages.

Twenty years ago, the record African champions refused to travel back home after winning the 2004 WAFCON in South Africa, insisting they were paid their bonuses before boarding their flight.

In 2016, after returning from Cameroon with an eighth WAFCON trophy, the players also staged a sit-in protest at their Abuja hotel to press home their claims for each player to be paid $16,500 after their triumph.