Gernot Rohr: Uncertainty over Eagles’ Future?

Gernot Rohr
Gernot Rohr

After Super Eagles lacklustre performance at the AFCON in Egypt where the team struggled in all their games, culminating in the clamour by Nigerians for the sack of Gernot Rohr, but he  survived the surge. However, with the new condition given for his contract renewal by the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, the German tactician might have lost his ‘Sacred Cow’ status

Since his arrival as the technical adviser of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr had solely depended on foreign players for the senior national team which had severally attracted condemnation from many quarters.

“A reasonable coach should be able to try as much as possible to infuse the home-based players to encourage them to work harder and to do more and giving them an opportunity. I think it’s very important the coach should look inwards too,” former Super Eagles Assistant Coach, Joe Erico once charged.

This policy may however soon change if the condition given by the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Amaju Pinnick, for the renewal of the German’s contract which expires next year is anything to go by.  

Pinnick has revealed that the contract of Super Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr would only be renewed if he’s ready to scout for players within the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

“Rohr’s contract is due for renewal in June and we don’t have any issue with him at the moment. Contracts are classified documents. What we are going to do is strengthen the clauses in his contract. We are going to domesticate Gernot Rohr in Nigeria and domesticate him to our leagues, that’s just it,” Pinnick said.

“He needs to move around, watch some of the league games. We are not saying take a player from here and bring him to the Super Eagles immediately.”

The NFF Boss’ recent statement has left a huge amount of uncertainty over the future of the former Gabonese Coach with the Super Eagles.

The German’s contract expires in June 2020 and if reports are to be believed, it will not be renewed despite having led the team to the bronze medal at the continental finals this year, and generally improved the quality of the team.

The German tactician defended his decision to ignore players in the Nigerian top-flight for the 2021 AFCON qualifying matches saying they are not fit enough.

“Unfortunately, we could not take more players from the local league because they did not play so it was difficult for them to be fit. I know that some people cannot be happy about my choice but I can tell you it is my choice, it is always honest,” he said.

Rohr is indeed planning to hold showdown talks with the NFF regarding his future at the end of the year.

The German has stressed that he is not distracted by his contract situation with the Nigerian Federation despite his current deal set to expire in the next seven months, June 2020.

Speaking on his contract situation at Tuesday’s press conference, Rohr told reporters: ‘’A coach has to work like if he’s still here in 10 years, that’s what I try to do, working for the future. My contract is ending next June, we’ll see at the end of the year if we can sit together and speak about the future but for the moment it is not a problem for me and my staff.

‘’All the time we give our best, we try to have a good understanding with our officials, our staff, not only the technical staff but also the administrative and medical staff, we have a good team and solidarity. No any distraction because my contract is ending.

‘’It is also the time to have a project for at least two years to end after the next AFCON, I start now the AFCON qualifiers and I don’t know if I will remain at the end because the contract is finishing.

‘’It is not really a problem but our project must be made for two to three years because what we want to do in this big country is to go also to the next World Cup and other countries are preparing and they have now a project.

‘’Project and philosophy of football which cannot stop after two first games of the qualifiers because the qualifiers will continue next June, in March will be friendlies again.

‘’For the moment it is not a problem but for the future we should see what is the project and if we can stay together or not.’’

Meanwhile, former Nigeria international, Victor Ikpeba would rather not want the issue of Rohr’s contract renewal to bring distraction into the team.

“I will advise the Nigeria Football Federation to extend Gernot Rohr’s contract because he has brought stability, progress and winning mentality to the team,” ex-Super Eagles star Victor Ikpeba told SuperSport TV.            

“I don’t see any reason why the NFF will want to sack a man that must have qualified the team to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in June next year. For me, Rohr deserves a contract renewal and should be allowed to continue with the good job he has been doing.

“How do you think it will look hiring a new coach to manage the Super Eagles after the expiration of his contract in June next summer? In my view, let’s allow Rohr to continue his good job on the Super Eagles.”

After the loss to the Desert Foxes of Algeria in the semi-final at the last Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, 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 called for Rohr’s head.

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 will take time to decide the next step

 “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 would rather 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,” he added.

“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.”

In spite of the disdain against Rohr and his style of football, Pinnick denied reports suggesting plans to sack the Super Eagles coach then.

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 the 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 had said then.

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 had 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. 

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 Nigeria 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 had told THISDAY.

It however remains to be seen if Rohr would be ready to meet the new condition by the NFF Boss for his contract renewal.