Gernot Rohr: To Go or Not  to Go?

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It is an unwritten constitution that after every failed Nigeria mission to the Africa Cup of Nations, the managers are consumed. However, in spite of the Super Eagles lacklustre performance-the team struggled in all their games, culminating in the call by Nigerians that the manager, Gernot Rohr, should go, the German tactician looks set to survive the surge 

After the loss to the Desert Foxes of Algeria in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final last Sunday, in a game which the Super Eagles were the second-best for the better part of the encounter, it came as no surprise that soccer-loving Nigerians were calling for the head of national team manager, Gernot Rohr.

However, in a swift reaction after the loss, Rohr said there was no hurry for him to make a decision on his future as Nigeria coach in spite of facing unrelenting criticism over tactics and choice of players, but confirmed that he would take time after Wednesday’s third-place play-off against Tunisia to decide the next step.

“There is no hurry because we want to finish third now. We will take a look at my overall results after the third-place match,” Rohr told BBC Sport. “I’m still under contract for another year, so we will see what is decided together. There are positives for us to look at on this journey, but after this final game we can think and then talk about the future.”

Rohr was rather quick to focus on his side’s progress and the attempts to build a team for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. “The team is already on a good level. After the World Cup, we tried to rejuvenate the team.

“When you’re playing in the semi-final of this big tournament you are already at a very good level. I also want to see the players who couldn’t play in this tournament yet, to finally have a team where everybody played,” he added.

In spite of the disdain against Rohr and his style of football, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, has denied reports suggesting plans to sack Super Eagles coach at the end of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.

While Pinnick admitted that there were areas of disagreements with Rohr, he told journalists in Cairo why the coach would stay on the job and the plans being made by the NFF to help the manager get better.

“He will remain in the job. I have complete confidence in him,” the NFF president assured even though there were renewed calls for Rohr’s sack following Sunday’s semi-final defeat to Algeria.

“Gernot has taken us to the semi-final, the target we set for him. Right now, we have a third-place match to play for and we intend to have our team leave Egypt with honour .

“There are some people that have been calling on me and the federation to sack Gernot. But I am not going to do that. In fact, Gernot is going on a refresher training period with Bayern Munich after the Nations Cup. We have a long-term plan with him.

“We have had rocky and difficult moments in our relationship, but this is normal in any relationship between two people. He is a good coach and we want him to remain with us. That said, we will work together on what needs to be improved upon,”Pinnick said.

Meanwhile, former Nigerian international, Kadiri Ikhana has branded NFF’s decision to send Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr on refresher course in Germany as a waste of funds.

While reacting to Pinnick’s statement, Ikhana who is a member of the 1980 Green Eagles squad when Nigeria won the first Africa Cup of Nations title, said the football authority should have invested the funds on indigenous coaches.

“If you feel Rohr has not done well, why not ask him to leave, that is the honourable thing to do. But if he has done well, why not, he stays. But sending him on a refresher training is what I cannot fathom out,” stated Ikhana.

 “Is it not a waste of resources? We have so many ex-internationals in this country who are coaches. Why not send some of them on coaching clinics? After all, when they come back, it will be to the benefit of our football generally rather than on a foreigner.

“I believe the team we took to Egypt was inexperienced, especially at this level. I also believe they come good in future . I don’t blame Rohr for the team’s ouster but you know a coach is said to be as good as his last result.

“When will our football administrators learn? Football has gone down, so low in this country. It is dead, to say the fact.

“Why should NFF be talking about spending more money to retain someone who is on a huge salary? Why not take that money to train some young coaches who will, in turn, impact their knowledge on the development and improvement of the game in the country?” Ikhana queried.

Rohr who was appointed as Super Eagles boss in August 2016, has a contract with the NFF until 2020. He initially joined the Super Eagles on a two-year contract which was renewed for another two years after he successfully led Nigeria to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 

Under Rohr, the Super Eagles impressively qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and AFCON 2019 with a game to play in both qualification series, but critics believe he has not made any impact in big moments. 

Nigeria lost 2-1, conceding a late goal to Argentina to crash out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which was fodder to his critics. Calls for him to be sacked intensified again after Nigeria’s 2-1 loss to Algeria in the semi-finals of AFCON. 

Sacking him would have also cost the NFF N358m ($1m) which the cash-strapped federation does not have.

Rohr’s biggest criticism has been that his Super Eagles have lacked a clear identity since he took over although his team did take shape as a defensive and counter-attacking unit during AFCON 2019. 

In a telephone chat with former Nigerian international, Mutiu Adepoju soon after the German was employed in 2016, he admitted that Rohr may not be one of the best coaches in the world but thinks he was right for the job considering the little time the federation had to employ a new coach.

“If we are thinking of bringing the best coach for Nigeria at this time, we would just be going round and round. I just believe Rohr is the right person we can get now and I think he would do a great job for the team considering the way he has related with them, his intelligence and the working ethics he has brought,” Headmaster, as he was fondly called by his admirers, told THISDAY then.

It, however, remains to be seen how long Rohr will continue to enjoy the support of the NFF eggheads in spite of letting the country down on big occasions.