Former Arsenal player and football pundit Ian Wright has sent a blunt message to Nigeria’s Football Federation after the Super Falcons earned a historic win over 2023 Women’s World Cup co-hosts Australia on Thursday.
Nigeria’s preparations for the tournament were shrouded in chaos with threats of a boycott and reports manager Randy Waldrum could have been sacked before a ball was even kicked.
Waldrum was in dispute with the federation over unpaid wages, poor travel arrangements and the cancellation of a pre-tournament camp.
Players were also reportedly willing to boycott their opening game against Canada last week after they were informed they won’t be paid tournament match bonuses, with the federation pointing to FIFA’s announcement players will be paid at least $30,000 for taking part.
Although, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has since backtracked on the pledge and said the prize money will still be distributed to the federations and the governing body is only asking for a portion of that money to go the players.
“We have issued recommendations, but we are an association of associations,” he said. “So whatever payments we do will be through the associations, and then the associations will make the relevant payments to their own players.”
Regardless of any disruption or disputes, Nigeria have delivered on the biggest stage of all.
After matchday two, they top their group level on four points with Canada, only goals scored separates the two teams.
A victory over the Republic of Ireland next week will ensure their progression to the knockout stages, regardless of what happens in the other match against Canada and Australia. The Super Falcons dramatic 3-2 win over co-hosts Australia on Thursday means they’re the first African nation to win at this tournament and they could reach the round of 16 for the second World Cup in a row.
Following Nigeria’s gripping win in Brisbane, Wright, who has consistently stood up for the women’s game and its players, called on the nation’s football federation to pay the players. Shortly after the game, he shared a tweet on social media saying “pay them” and tagged the federation.
The Matildas, who are one of the favourites for this year’s World Cup as a hosting nation, appeared to be in control right before half-time as Emily van Egmond put them in front. However, just before the break, Uchenna Kanu put Nigeria back on level terms.
The second-half belonged to the Super Falcons as Osinachi Ohale put them in front before Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala, who was a fitness doubt for this fixture, sent them into dreamland with a third goal. Australia pulled one back deep into stoppage time through Alanna Kennedy, but it wasn’t enough as Nigeria claimed all three points.
Group B will conclude on Monday with both matches kicking off at 11am UK time. Nigeria take on the Republic of Ireland, who have already been knocked out, while Canada and Australia go head-to-head in Melbourne.