Forward of the 2023 Girls’s World Cup, the exclusion of Okobi-Okeoghene from the Falcons squad has generated controversy, whereas the workforce’s preparations name for concern, writes ’TANA AIYEJINA
Tremendous Falcons preparations for the 2023 Girls’s World Cup have been already marred by a final minute cancellation of tenting in Abuja – earlier billed to start June 20 – by the Nigeria Soccer Federation.
Following the choice, the workforce, who’re pitted alongside co-hosts Australia Eire and Canada in Group B, now have barely 10 days to organize earlier than their first recreation in opposition to Canada July 21 in Melbourne, since they’ll fly to Australia July 2 to start preparations.
- Advertisement -
The workforce’s American coach Randy Waldrum launched his 23-woman squad penultimate Friday, with acquainted faces captain Onome Ebi, Asisat Oshoala, Rasheedat Ajibade, Francisca Ordega, Michelle Alozie, Chiamaka Nnadozie, Halimatu Ayinde and others on the checklist for the journey to the Oceania.
There have been additionally exclusions. Ahead Vera Ihezuo, Spain-based Charity Adule and midfielder Regina Otu have been disregarded. Veteran midfielder Rita Chikwelu can be out after reportedly calling it quits with worldwide soccer.
However the obtrusive absentee was Spain-based Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene, the mercurial midfielder, who’s been the workforce’s artistic spark within the center in recent times.
Okobi-Okeoghene’s sheer particular person brilliance handed the workforce the World Cup ticket finally yr’s WAFCON quarter-finals, when she waltzed by way of a sea of Cameroonian legs earlier than organising striker Rasheedat Ajibade for the winner, which ensured the previous African champions booked their place in Australia and New Zealand.
Expectedly, the nation’s football-crazy populace kicked following her exclusion.
- Advertisement -
Followers sought to know why one of many workforce’s shining lights was excluded from the World Cup celebration.
“Okobi-Okeoghene’s exclusion is surprising as a result of she contributes a lot from the midfield,” Silverbird TV sports activities presenter Blessing Nwosu acknowledged.
Our correspondent learnt that Okobi-Okeoghene, relatively than return to Nigeria for the low season, joined her former membership in Sweden Eskilstuna United to coach for the World Cup and likewise comply with the programme drawn out by Waldrum.
- Advertisement -
She insists she is in superb form, amid claims she was dropped due to an harm.
“They stated I’m injured, how am I injured? I’ve been coaching and following the (World Cup) programme,” Okobi-Okeoghene advised The PUNCH.
Nevertheless, there are feelers that she could have been a ‘sufferer’ of the facility play within the Falcons camp.
It was learnt that NFF had insisted that Waldrum included no less than one home-based participant in his World Cup squad, with a federation official telling The PUNCH that Falconets goalkeeper finally yr’s U-20 Girls’s World Cup Omini Oyono was really helpful to the coach.
Federation officers have been additionally alleged to have vowed that if the coach didn’t decide the participant, they gained’t enable Waldrum’s American assistant be a part of up with the workforce for the mission Down Underneath.
If Oyono was picked, it meant US-based third alternative keeper Yewande Balogun, who’s reportedly favoured by Waldrum, must give approach.
The PUNCH completely learnt that the coach then despatched his checklist to the federation, which included 4 keepers – Oyono, first alternative Chiamaka Nnadozie, Tochuckwu Oluchi and Balogun, but it surely was rejected as a result of it had 4 keepers as an alternative of three.
Within the checklist, captain Onome Ebi and midfielder Deborah Abiodun have been listed as the 2 home-based gamers, that includes for Abia Angels and Rivers Angels respectively, within the Nigeria Girls’s Soccer League.
However our findings present that the 40-year-old Ebi, who will likely be making a document sixth look on the World Cup, didn’t play a single recreation for the NWFL facet earlier than the conclusion of final season, after she was launched by Spanish facet Levante Las Planas in January, following an unimpressive stint that noticed her play simply as soon as in 4 months for the membership.
Additionally, our correspondent gathered that Abiodun signed for Pittsburgh’s Panthers, Waldrum’s college workforce within the US, final November.
After Waldrum, in line with our supply, insisted on not sacrificing Balogun for Oyono, who was finally dropped. Abiodun was picked because the ‘home-based’ star for the journey to Australia.
“This meant one other midfielder needed to give approach and it was Okobi that was dropped,” an insider stated.
Reacting to Okobi-Okeoghene’s exclusion, Waldrum, in an interview with The PUNCH, insisted that he picked the most effective legs for the World Cup.
“With out speaking about who I picked and who I didn’t decide, I feel it’s honest to say we picked a bunch that we thought would give us an opportunity to win and when you must decide simply 23 gamers, it means some gamers will simply should be left off,” Waldrum stated.
However Abiodun, it was learnt, didn’t play aggressive soccer all through final season as a result of she couldn’t be a part of her new American workforce as a result of paper work.
Nevertheless, Waldrum stated she deserved her place within the workforce.
“Deborah Abiodun has been round in the previous couple of camps and she or he had World Cup with the U-20 workforce, she is an excellent younger participant. She goes to be an excellent participant for the Falcons for a really very long time.”
Waldrum was additionally accused of preferential remedy for the US-born gamers within the squad, whereas leaving out thrilling native skills from his squad.
A supply advised our correspondent that US-based duo Iffy Onumonu and Jennifer Echegini have harm points however the coach picked them for the World Cup.
“I don’t know the place the declare of favouring the America-based gamers got here from, however that isn’t a problem to me,” Waldrum advised The PUNCH.
“They at all times really feel that I don’t use native gamers and I’ll definitely let you know that since I’ve taken over, taking a look at gamers within the workforce which were regulars, Demehin Tosin was an area, Rofiat Imuran was an area, Glory Ogbonna was an area when I discovered her, Akudo Ogbonna has additionally been in lots of camps, she’s native. Monday Present was native too.
“So, folks don’t examine sufficient. We’ve had over 32 native gamers alone in camps, since I’ve been with the workforce. And clearly you simply need the most effective gamers for the World Cup.”
Whereas different nations are already finalising preparations for the match, the NFF has needed to cancel a proposed three-week tenting in Abuja, with the 23-woman Falcons now to fly straight to Australia July 2 to start preparations.
In the meantime, Falcons Group B opponents Eire started preparations June 12 with a 27-woman squad and beat Zambia 3-2 in a pre-World Cup conflict on Thursday.
The Irish will face France subsequent month, earlier than going to Australia, the place a behind closed doorways pleasant with Colombia has additionally been lined up earlier than their opening recreation of the match in opposition to Australia.
Utilizing periodisation, the Irish coaching camp schedule factored in when gamers completed their respective membership seasons, the hundreds that they’ll and have to tackle, plus the restoration occasions and routines that they require.
That is to make sure that the Women in Inexperienced will likely be in step with one another when coming into the ultimate stage of preparation in a secure approach. This, the Irish authorities stated, could be achieved by way of using STATSports expertise monitored carefully by the workforce’s sport scientist and technical employees.
Additionally, South Africa, who play Sweden, Argentina and Italy in Group G, have entered their closing leg of preparations, with coach Desiree Ellis naming her closing 23-woman travelling squad on Friday.
The African champions have been in camp since June 12 with a preliminary workforce of 36 gamers.
Nigeria’s lack of ability to kickstart their closing preparations on time could have an effect on their probabilities on the match correct, says Nwosu.
“I don’t assume something will change,” Nwosu stated.
“The women have been round following the conclusion of the season, why didn’t they bring about them collectively early sufficient?”
Girls’s soccer fanatic Dapo Sotiminu, nonetheless, believes the squad’s preparations are in the suitable course.
He stated, “From how they ready previously, I feel the NFF has accomplished effectively this time by way of preparations, increase camps overseas and taking part in pleasant video games. They’ve additionally ensured that the gamers get to the World Cup early sufficient, to allow them to begin one other spherical of preparations.”
However regardless of the controversy his checklist has generated and the hitch in preparations, Waldrum is assured of a superb outing by his facet in Australia and New Zealand.
“I just like the squad we’ve put collectively and the previous couple of camps we’ve had, they’ve been coming round. My solely concern is just not having the time to camp in Nigeria for 3 weeks.
“However I really like the group and they’ll symbolize Nigeria very effectively.”