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2023 Women's World Cup

‘It’s blatant discrimination’: Lauren Gregg speaks out on Nigerian Football Federation

Lauren Gregg, assistant coach of the Nigerian women’s national team, spoke exclusively with The Equalizer about being unable to travel with the team to the World Cup and her fight with the Nigerian Football Federation.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Gregg.

When Randy Waldrum called Lauren Gregg two and a half years ago to be his assistant for the Nigerian women’s national team, the decorated coach jumped at the opportunity. She had a list of goals she wanted to accomplish: grow the game, help the players succeed at the World Cup, and give back to the game she loves.

But now, less than two weeks away from the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Gregg — who spoke exclusively with The Equalizer — is sitting at home and has zero indication of whether she’ll join the Nigerian Super Falcons in Brisbane, Australia.

Sidelining Gregg is a move that she calls retaliation and backlash, along with “blatant discrimination.”

Gregg is part of a web of turmoil surrounding Nigeria’s women’s team. The story involves two coaches sticking up for their players and their equal rights and pay.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Waldrum have gone back and forth publicly in the last few days. An NFF spokesperson even went as far to say Waldrum was an “incompetent loudmouth” and dubbed him “Mr Blabbermouth Waldrum.”

Gregg is caught in the middle, too, of the back and forth between federation and coach and between federation and players — who are threatening to go on strike for their first Group B match against Canada.

How does Gregg fit in all of this? Gregg spoke with The Equalizer about how she went from being Waldrum’s right-hand coach to being ousted and humiliated by the NFF.

Gregg, whose resume includes two World Cup titles and an Olympic gold medal as an assistant coach, said that the problem began during the Women’s African Cup of Nations (WAFCON) last year. That’s where the Nigerian Football Federation started to distrust and dissent against Gregg and Waldrum, she said.

Nigeria lost its semifinal match against host nation Morocco. On paper, it looked bad: Two red cards were given to Nigerian players Halimatu Ayinde and Rasheedat Ajibade. However, for 60 minutes, Nigeria was able to keep Morocco at bay and earn a draw, 1-1. The match went into extra time with no goals. Then, during penalties, Morocco claimed the win and moved on to the championship.

“Randy and I both feel it’s probably our best coaching game ever — to be able to carry nine players against 11 for 60 minutes and pull out a draw is unprecedented,” Gregg told The Equalizer. “You don’t find that anywhere in the world … One of our American-Nigerians missed [a penalty], and the federation faulted us for that. They’re very angry that we lost. That started a lot of the dissent.”

Before the third-place match, Nigerian players expressed their disappointment in the NFF for not paying them for up to a year of matches and appearances. The players suggested staging a strike, including refusing recovery and treatment along with training.

According to Gregg, players weren’t paid some of their per diem for WAFCON and prior bonus money.

“Our core, starting group of players went from playing 120 minutes with nine players, to no recovery, no training for the next two games and then went into the Zambia game,” she explained. “They got enough of their money to play the game. We lost, despite dominating. They were exhausted, mentally, at this point. To not come out with a medal, to not win, it put a crack in our armor and how [the NFF] felt about us.”

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