By Enefiok Udo Obong
Spotlight has been shed on the Super Eagles’ Head Coach Gernot Rohr ever since the team threw away a four-goal lead to draw 4-4 at home in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match in Benin City last Friday. A lot of things come to bear when discussing the match and Nigerians are rightly justified to feel that lack of ideas from the bench can be attributed to the loss of two points. The fact that the Eagles were playing at ‘home’ and also the quality (or lack of it) of the opposition added fuel to the fire of disappointment.
The Franco-German coach was fired by Étoile Sportive du Sahel of Tunisia and Nantes FC of France in 2009 and 2010 respectively. He got the Super Eagles job in 2016 after also being fired by Burkina Faso and rejected by Guinea. He won his first match as Eagles coach and has a record of 29 wins, 13 losses and 10 draws in 52 matches in charge of the Nigerian senior national team. Not a stellar record considering that most of his opponents were African teams who are below Nigeria in the FIFA rankings. His major achievements as Nigeria’s national team coach was being the first African team to qualify for the FIFA 2018 World Cup and winning a bronze medal at the AFCON 2019. Nigeria failed to qualify for the two editions earlier before Rohr’s arrival at Eagles.
Rohr has been heavily criticized by the sporting media for not showing enough tactical acumen. The NFF even acknowledged this fact when announcing they are sending him to Germany (home) for a refresher course after his failure at the World Cup in Russia. Some critics also point to his lazy brand of recruiting players from all over the world irrespective of talent to play for the national team once there is a hint of Nigerian blood in them and this comes at the expense of local talents whom many feel abound in the domestic league. In fact, the team that was embarrassed by Sierra Leone (a team 50 places lower than Nigeria on the current FIFA rankings) was made up entirely of players that can best be described as ‘European Journeymen’. Some of them have even been clubless for a while.
The fact that the tactician’s (and I use this term with caution) contract was renewed this year is one of the great mysteries of Nigerian football. Everyone, or almost everyone knew his record was mediocre at best. He did not even demand a renewed contract. Without asking he was given on a platter of gold. He was not hungry for the job. Anyway the NFF is not a democratic body. It’s a private organization with government limbs…so as long as the wise men there see Rohr as a friend, his job, no matter how average, is safe.
Nigerians have taken to social media to express their frustration after the Super Eagles threw away a four-goal advantage as Sierra Leone secured a 4-4 draw in Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. The result left fans disappointed and they have questioned the performance of the three-time African champions. A lot of memes and jokes have been flying around twitter. But it is no laughing matter, as the anger is not a result of this single match, any team can have a day off…but the fans have frustratingly seen a decline in the usual poise and pace they bare so used to in the beloved Super Eagles. It is a systematic decline that should be arrested now. And the first head to roll should be the chief coach.
It is no question of wether Nigeria will qualify for AFCON 2022 in Cameroon. We may still top the group because we are much better than the teams we have been paired with in Group L by a country mile. But the challenge will start when we get to the competition proper. We probably will struggle through the group stages and ‘wobble and fumble’ (Apologies to Ambassador Fanny Amun) to the knock out stage. And when it gets to the crunch time when a coach’s input is really crucial, both tactically and psychologically, we would come up short again because what we have on the bench is led by someone that has so far proven to be very average.
One thing is certain, Rohr will see out his juicy contract and the Eagles under him will remain an average team. Sierra Leone came here with a mixture of foreign-based and local players and gave us a run for our money with our team donned predominantly with oversees players and one clubless player. How can you justify the invitation and fielding of a clubless player while refusing to invite our local players who at least are engaged with preseason friendly games? It is hoped that Austin Eguavoen, Paul Aigbogun and the Technical Committee will have the courage to ask Rohr to present his technical report of the match. It is hoped that they will be able to officially tell him that he flopped. It is hoped that the NFF will ensure that Rohr comes back to Nigeria after we would have won in Sierra Leone to resume work officially as was stated in his contract.
He shouldn’t have any excuses because Nigeria is better than Europe in terms of the spread and control of the coronavirus. He should be able to go round venues and see matches as the Premier League is about to kick off. He should establish a camp for our home based players now and earn his fat salary. It is hoped that the NFF will have the courage to review his salary downward as a result of the effect of coronavirus as it has been done the world over. Let the Technical Committee be seen working without any interference and let us see their development plans. This time let the NFF not see people that criticize them as enemies but as friends. The NFF should be open to new ideas from all sections of the country. This is yet another wake up call. This present set of administrators can still bring out the best.
But it is time we look to control how our team performs and do something to stop the decline. It is our pride as Nigerians, and no Franco-German would feel the shame or pride more than we do as the team performs. The Super Eagles are a national symbol. A unifying point in our troubled and divided nation. We should not joke with it. Not at all.