Our Pitches Aren’t Great, Sometimes We Share Beds – Onumonu Laments After Nigeria’s World Cup Exit

Ifeoma Onumonu has said Nigeria’s players have to “fight for something bigger” after their painful exit on penalties to England in the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup on Monday.

Randy Waldrum’s side dominated large spells of the game in Brisbane but lost 4-2 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes. Onumonu said she was incredibly proud of the team’s efforts and took the opportunity to highlight the difference in support between the two teams.
“I’ve seen what [resources] England have access to,” said the forward, who plays her club football for NJ/NY Gotham FC in the US. “In Nigeria we don’t have access to much. Our training fields aren’t great. Where we sleep isn’t great. Sometimes we share beds.

“It’s not good enough. In terms of recovery, we don’t have much of any of that. We don’t have access to a gym in camp in Nigeria.

“There’s a lot that needs to be done. Hopefully more people start to talk about it. Coming here it’s hard to adjust. We do what we can because we love playing for our country but hopefully they make it easier for us to do our best.”

Nigeria’s buildup to the tournament was difficult with the players threatening to boycott the games in Australia and New Zealand while Waldrum hit out at the Nigeria Football Federation, telling the On the Whistle podcast: “What keeps me going are the players. Otherwise, I would have quit this job long ago.

“Up until about three weeks ago, I had been owed about 14 months’ salary. And then they paid seven months’ salary. We still have players that haven’t been paid since two years ago, when we played the summer series in the USA. It’s a travesty.”

Nigeria beat the co‑hosts Australia 3-2 in a memorable game and drew with Canada and the Republic of Ireland to set up the game against England.

Ademola Olajire, the NFF’s communications director, called Waldrum a “blabbermouth” and the “worst Super Falcons coach in history”.

Olajire said: “Everyone knows Fifa pays preparation money for every team going to the Women’s World Cup. The team travelled to Japan to play matches, travelled to Mexico for a tournament and travelled to Turkey to play matches.”

Onumonu said: “[Back home] the [pitches] aren’t great. The grass is rocky, bumps everywhere. The stadium we play on for qualifying – you’d be surprised. I was surprised. You don’t even know where the ball is going to jump at you.

“Our under‑20s went far in their World Cup and when they were sent home they were sleeping in airports for 24 hours. That’s not acceptable. What we have to fight for is bigger for us.”

The forward did point out, though, that the performances of the African teams at the World Cup had been encouraging. “We’re on the rise and it’s growing. A lot of people don’t watch as much as they do Europe and so underestimate who we are, what we are capable of. No one believed in us and now a lot of people are.

“Other teams are catching up and growing, including us. There’s no longer going to be that one team that you are absolutely going to say they’re going to win. Every game will become a battle. Every game has become important.

“As women start to play more internationals and at clubs, more and more teams are going to catch up. There’s a shift. A lot more are coming.”

Credit: The Guardian

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