This week we check-in around the world on the botched attempt by the Nigerian Football Federation to hire a new Women's National Team coach. English international pool player Leah Galton is leaving Sky Blue FC of the NWSL for Bayern Munich of Germany while former NWSL forward Ella Masar is leaving Rosengard of Sweden for the other German powerhouse side, VfL Wolfsburg. Lastly we look at India and their new national women's football competition, which ends in a league format involving six teams, along with some other interesting news around the women's game in the country.
Randy Waldrum—He is the new Women's National Team Coach of Nigeria—No wait; he's going to Pittsburg instead. Randy Waldrum—who as head coach of Trinidad and Tobago while also coaching the NWSL's Houston Dash, bungled a chance to coach at the 2015 Women's World Cup Finals in Canada as his charges lost to Ecuador on a speculative late long range shot at home in the second leg of the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL playoffs after almost 180 minutes of scoreless football—was primed to move to Nigeria to take the national women's team job, after being let go earlier this year after three plus seasons of guiding the NWSL Houston Dash (with Carli Lloyd for much of that time) to non-playoff finishes every year. In October, he reportedly accepted the job and was announced as Nigeria's coach for the 2018 African Championships (Women's Cup of Nations, which doubles as the 2019 WWC Qualifiers). However, the Nigerian Federation never closed the deal and Waldrum last week accepted a job in charge of the University of Pittsburgh's women's team, a long time struggler in college soccer.
There are two stories to Waldrum's switcheroo—one out of Nigeria that Waldrum spurned the NFF after agreeing to the job but the other—and probably more believable story—was that a verbal commitment was made by the NFF President Amaju Pinnick with the American that was never ratified by his board and thus no contract was developed, forcing Waldrum to go with the sure deal from Pittsburgh for family reasons. According to the NFF, it was Pinnick that approach Waldrum, who did not originally apply for the job, but the connection likely was made through an agent well-connected to African Football, though Waldrum seems to apply for any national team job that opens up.
Nigerian Football Federation official Chris Green told BBC Sport that: "I'm quite disappointed that Randy Waldrum was appointed and he decided not to come," Green explained why Waldrum had changed his mind and admitted some of the blame had to sit with the NFF. "He [Waldrum] said in his letter [to us] that from when the [NFF] president gave him the job, they did not do anything or contact him any further. There are other things that are required like signing the contract itself, working conditions and all the basics that parties have to agree to [and] nothing was done. He was left in limbo and said he has to feed his family, but (we're) extremely disappointed that we've lost out on another coach." The other coach referred to by Green was when the NFF tried to hire experienced French coach Paul Le Guen for the men's side, last year.
Regarding the Pittsburgh job, Waldrum said: "I would like to thank [director of athletics] Heather Lyke for giving me this wonderful opportunity to lead the womens soccer program at the University of Pittsburgh. I believe in the vision and excitement that she has brought to the Pitt athletic department and I look forward to being a part of that vision." Greg Miller was fired as womens head coach in November after going 32-69- 8 in six seasons at the school. The Panthers were last in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which also has traditional power UNC, in 2017 with a 0-9- 1 record. The most famous former alumni of the Pittsburgh women's soccer program has to be former English international goalkeeper Rachel Brown, who played there at the beginning of this century, after a short time at the University of Alabama. Brown was on the World Cup sides of 2007 and 2011 and for Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics. She guested for Arsenal for the 2014 International Club Championships in Japan—when they lost the final to Sao Jose of Brazil 2-0 in the final-- and retired from the game in 2015.
NWSL English youth International Leah Galton leaves Sky Blue FC for Bayern Munich
Leah Galton is leaving NWSL and Sky Blue FC to sign with Bayern Munich of the Frauen-Bundesliga for this coming season. She was the number 13 draft pick in the 2016 draft out of Hofstra University and scored three goals and four assists in 14 games. She was slowed by injury in 2017 but still had 2 goals and 1 assist in 16 matches. She has played for England at the youth level but was called into a full camp last year but has not yet been capped due to injuries.
Ella Masar (31)—who played for Rosengard of Sweden for the past two seasons and was always among the top Damallsveksan league scorers, after playing for Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL, as well as clubs in the WPS, Paris St. Germain and in Norway,-- has transferred to German powerhouse VfL Wolfsburg for the second half of the season and has signed a contract until 2019. Masar scored 26 goals in two seasons in Sweden, more than the 20 goals she scored in six seasons in NWSL and WPS, though she often played more in midfield in the States.
Ella Masar told Wolfsburg's official website about her move: "I am really happy about my new team, with so many great players that I will get to play with in the future. For me, VfL is the most professional team in women's football, operating at the very highest level. The German style of playing football absolutely fascinates me. The blend of team-work and hard work in training really suits me perfectly. I can hardly wait to get started."
Indian Women's League Prepares for Second Season after First Successful Season
The Indian Women's League completed a national league format in 2017 with six teams, after two preliminary competition states. Twenty teams from nine states took part in the preliminary qualifiers, and nine qualified for the IWL preliminaries held in late 2016. The fine six played on a league basis in an attempt by the All India Football Federation to take the women's game beyond state leagues. The final six teams in 2017 were (with their State):
FC Alakhpura (Haryana—North Central India—west of Delhi)
Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC (Puducherry—Southeast—once the French
FC Pune City—(Maharashtra—Mumbai is the State Capital),
Rising Student Club (Odisha—East near Calcutta)
Eastern Sporting Union (Manipur—East near Myanmar)
Eastern Sporting Union won the final 3-0 over Rising Student. The Manipur side was led by Bembem Devi (37), who has been an Indian international since 1993 when she was 15; Devi in 2014 played at Asian regional power New Radiant in the Maldives. She also managed the side while also playing. For India, she won South Asian Games titles in 2010 and 2016 and South Asian Football Federation regional titles in 2012 and 2014. Yumnam Kamala Devi of Eastern Sporting lead the scoring charts with 12 goals while defender Umapati Devi, also from Eastern Sporting, was the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament.
With a reach of 8.83 million on AIFF's Facebook page, the Indian Women's League had visibility, hopefully a start that the federation can build on and entice young woman to adopt the sport. The matches were streamed live on Facebook and had an average viewership of close to 40,000 with the highest viewership being 64,915. With the success of the first edition, the AIFF decided to hold the preliminary rounds for the second edition in Kolhapur in Southern India. For 2018 12 teams made the final qualifying round, with Jammu & Kashmir (the far North of the country bordering Pakistan) and West Bengal (in Eastern India near Bangladesh) adding representatives for the first time in J&K State Sports Council and Chandney Sporting. Eastern Sporting Union, as the defending champions, along with last year's finalist Rising Students Club qualified for the Final Round. AIFF President Praful Patel was confident the league will rapidly expand and urged the country's top clubs to start a women's team as well. "Our aim is to have 16 teams soon. We will request all the national clubs to have women's sides too."
Meanwhile in the state of Goa, a women's league with its sponsor Vedanta—a natural resources company—discussed some areas to improve upon, according to Annanya Agarwal, President of the Vendata Football Project: "There are three major things that we want to work upon. One captain told me that the girls sometimes feel uncomfortable that the support staff is so male-dominated. Personally, I have promised her that we will ensure there is a senior authority who they can go up to. There will be a female leader in all the teams. Another feedback was to make the league longer. The length of the league will have an impact on the player's, and depending on the success each year, we will push for longer leagues. A longer league would also mean more teams. Next season, we are pushing for eight teams, if not 10." These improvements could be applied to a number of countries where women's football is struggling to gain a foothold, particularly in Africa and Asia. With leagues like Goa's trying to make these improvements, other leagues in India and around the world can follow their example.
Tanvie Hans, the first Indian origin football player to have played for Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham's women's teams in the past, has returned to India and has started to compete in the men's Amateur League in Bengaluru (Bengalore in Karnataka state, in southern India). The 27-year- old not only went on to represent Cult FC in the league but also captained the side and was the only female player. She is coaching for Cult FC and played in England while studying for her masters at the University of Exeter after doing undergraduate work at the University of Delhi.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.