Randy Waldrum
Randy Waldrum

By Harry Awurumibe

Nigerian football followers are outraged over the surprise inclusions of two fringe players forward Chinonyerem Macleans of Locomotiv Moscow, Russia and Chidinma Okeke of Mynavi Sendai Ladies, Japan in the final 18-player squad for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France by Super Falcons head coach Randy Waldrum.

The American-born gaffer surprised ardent women’s football followers by including the Macleans and Okeke who played little or no part at all in Nigeria’s qualification matches in the Paris Olympics Women’s Football Tournament CAF qualifiers series. 

Waldrum on Wednesday released the Super Falcons final list to prosecute the Olympics in Paris with the usual suspects including team captain Rasheedat Ajibade, reliable goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie and reigning African Best Player Asisat Oshoala as well as 13 others in his final 18-player roster for the Paris 2024 Olympics which will hold from July 26 to August 11.

Also on the list are defenders; Osinachi Ohale, Oluwatosin Demehin, Michelle Alozie and Nicole Payne just as the midfielders invited by Waldrum are Deborah Abiodun, Halimatu Ayinde, Christy Ucheibe, Jennifer Ecehegini and Toni Payne while attackers are Esther Okoronkwo, Chinwendu Ihezuo and Uchenna Kanu.

Surprisingly, Spain-based forward Gift Monday who featured prominently in the Super Falcons matches since 2023 alongside Ifeaoma Onumonu as well as home-based duo Jumoke Alani of Nasarawa Amazons and Morufat Ademola of Rivers Angels are listed as the alternate players available for selection, in case of any injuries to any of the 18 players.

However, the American-born gaffer surprised ardent women’s football followers by including Macleans and Okeke who played little or no part at all in Nigeria’s qualification matches in the Paris Olympics women’s football  tournament CAF qualifiers.

Many football followers are questioning how Macleans who has not played for Nigeria since her two cameo appearances in Super Falcons’ better-forgotten Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) in Morocco in 2022 managed to make the final list ahead of more illustrious Gift Monday and Ifeoma Onumonu.

Prompt News checks on Maclean’s involvement with Nigeria’s senior women’s football team in the recent time showed that she played her last game 24 months ago at the 2022 WAFCON in Morocco even as she only came in as substitute in the two matches she featured for Nigeria. 

The Lokomotiv Moscow forward played 28 minutes as a second half substitute in Nigeria versus Burundi tie on July 7 and another 7 minutes cameo against  Botswana on July 10, 2022. She has not been invited again after the 35 minutes cumulative since two years ago until she was selected for the Games by Waldrum. 

Further investigation showed that Macleans was not invited for the six Olympics qualifying matches Nigeria played against Ethiopia home and away on October 25 in Addis Ababa and October 31, 2023 in Abuja, handled by Nigerian trio Justin Madugu, Ann Agumanu-Chiejine and Auwal Makwalla. Nigeria won 5–1 on aggregate without coach Waldrum and forward Macleans.

Also, the Russia-based player was not invited by Waldrum who returned to the dugout in the next two Olympics double-header matches against Cameroon and South Africa in the third and final round of CAF qualifiers earlier in the year. 

Again, she was not invited for the WAFCON 2024 (now WAFCON 2025) qualifiers between Nigeria and Cape Verde prosecuted by indigenous coaches Justin Madugu, Ann Agumanu-Chiejine and Auwal Makwalla in the absence of Waldrum. 

Nigeria humiliated Cape  Verde 7-1 on aggregate in the final round of qualifiers played in December 2023.

In the same vein, Okeke who was frozen out of Super Falcons squad after Nigeria’s Round of 16 elimination in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in France was only involved in Nigeria’s last two Olympics double-header against South Africa in Abuja and   Pretoria in April. 

Many football followers in Nigeria are now raising eyebrows on the yardstick used by the Super Falcons coach in selecting Macleans and Okeke who played less than 5% games for Nigeria in the period under review over players like forward Ifeoma Onumonu of SLC Utah, Gift Monday of Coasta Adeje Tenerife Egatesa and her teammate Omorinsola Babajide who played over 80% matches in the Olympics qualifiers. 

Others argued why veterans like defender Onome Ebi who currently plays for an Israeli Women’s Premier League side Bnot Netanya and winger Francisca Ordega who like Macleans have scored nine goals for CSKA Moscow this season were not included in the Olympics squad because of their experience and good knowledge of Super Falcons.

Meanwhile, few squad members who are currently on holiday in Nigeria will join two home-based players and team officials to jet out of Abuja aboard an Air France flight to Sevilla, Spain on Thursday night, with the rest of the playing body and technical team led by Waldrum also arriving in Sevilla on Friday for a two-week training camp.

The team is scheduled to depart Sevilla for France on Thursday, July 18.

Paris 2024 Olympics-bound Super Falcons: 

Goalkeepers: Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris FC); Tochukwu Oluehi (Shualat Alsharqia FC, Saudi Arabia).

Defenders: Osinachi Ohale (Pachucha Club de Futbol, Mexico); Oluwatosin Demehin (Stade de Reims, France); Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash, USA); Nicole Payne (Portland Thorns FC, USA); Chidinma Okeke (Mynavi Sendai Ladies, Japan)

Midfielders: Deborah Abiodun (University of Pittsburgh, USA); Halimatu Ayinde (FC Rosengard, Sweden); Christy Ucheibe (SL Benfica, Portugal); Jennifer Echegini (Juventus Ladies, Italy); Toni Payne (Sevilla FC, Spain)

Forwards: Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid FC, Spain); Esther Okoronkwo (Changchun FC, China); Asisat Oshoala (Bay FC, USA); Uchenna Kanu (Racing Louisville, USA); Chiwendu Ihezuo (Pachucha Club de Futbol, Mexico); Chinonyerem Macleans (Locomotiv Moscow, Russia)

Alternate Players: Jumoke Alani (Nasarawa Amazons); Ifeoma Onumonu (Utah Royals, USA); Gift Monday (Coasta Adeje Tenerife Egatesa, Spain); Morufa Ademola (Rivers Angels). – PROMPT NEWS