Nigeria, my biggest challenge in Africa
BY JOE APU
FRANCO-GERMAN Gernot Rohr has had his fair share of sojourning in Africa working with club sides and national teams.
He was fired by Étoile Sport- ive du Sahel following a third-place finish in the league, out- side of the 2010 CAF Champions League plac- es, on 15 May 2009 and on
2009 and on 9 June was as the 2009, named as the new head coach of the Ligue 2 team FC Nantes, his contract running till 30 June 2011 but on 3 December 2009, he was fired by FC Nantes and replaced by Jean-Marc Furlan.
On 21 February 2010, Rohr replaced French coach Alain Giresse at the helm of the Gabon national football team and became manager of Ni- ger national football team in September 2012.
He resigned in October 2014 and headed to Burkina Faso and again on 22 December 2015, he was sacked by Burkina Faso national football team as manager. His passion for African football saw him shortlisted for the Guinea national team job in July 2016 and in August 2016, he was named man- ager of the Super Eagles of Nigeria by the Nigeria Football Federation under the leadership of Amaju Pinnick.
With three wins from three games in Nigeria’s run-up to the Russia 2018 World Cup, a confident Rohr during the week in Lagos expressed optimism that Nigeria looks good for a ticket.
Though, he admits that the battle against Cameroon and Algeria would be though, he is confident that the target of taking the Super Eagles to the World Cup is achievable.
Taking a close look at the other coun- tries he had coached before settling for the Nigeria job, Rohr is quick to con- fess that Nigeria remains his biggest challenge working in the continent.
In most of the other countries I have worked with, there have been a dearth of players to work with and though I made some impacts, I dare say that Ni- geria remains the toughest test I have had to take on.
Nigeria provides me the biggest challenge to showcase myself and given the caliber of players available, I think the task is not impossible.
Rohr admits that Nigeria has had a long running battle with the Lions of Cameroon at different times but he says he can beat his chest that they cannot continue to have upper hand.
“I’m aware of the records between Nigeria and Cameroon but I’m sure that in Uyo whewre we feel at home, they will fall and like was the case in Ndola, Zambia we’ll go to Cameroon and give it our best shot to fortify our position on the table.
Rohr boasted that he has a bet- ter team than Cameroun and Algeria, pointing out that his presence in Ga- bon would give him the opportunity to fine-tune his strategies before the qualifiers resume later this year.
He also believes the trip would give him the chance to arrange for friendly games for the country, as well as moni- tor Nigeria’s possible opponents in the 2019 African Nations Cup, which qualifiers also begins in March.
“I am very optimistic that Nigeria will qualify for the World Cup from our group,” he said as he responded to the avalange of questions took ques- tions from the media in Lagos during the week.
After the break from the qualifiers after Nigeria took a commanding lead in the group, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun, would come knocking at the Nest of Champions in Uyo in Au- gust and Rohr promises that nothing will stop the Lions from being con- sumed.
We have a better team than Cam- eroun. That is why we won away in Zambia where Cameroun was beaten. There is also this family spirit in the team that no team can break now.
I know that the Cameroonians are good but we are better. We also have the advantage of playing at home. The support is going to be magnificent and I urge all Nigerians to come out and support their team,” he said.
To propel the Super Eagles to victory, Rohr made a plea to the leadership of the Nigeria Football Fed- eration, NFF asking tactfully that his players be re- warded with handsome bonuses.
“You must encourage the players with their bo- nus. We must progress if not, we’ll regress,” the coach said.
He dismissed fears that the Super Eagles might go the way of the Super Falcons before they can get their bonuses paid. “I do not hope so,” he shot back to the question but noted that the team apart from bonuses is proud to play for their fatherland.
“We have a young team who are more interested to play for their nation. We must encourage them. There is nothing wrong in some of the players buy- ing tickets to honour call-ups so far as they are refunded. That also shows loyalty and patriotism. But, we must be ready to pay bonuses for the team. They are ready to win all their remaining matches and need to be paid for their hard work,” he stated.
On the issue of lead strikers for the Super Eagles ahead the double header against Cameroon, the Franco-German coach who had worked with Niger Republic, Burkina Faso and Gabon said the time to the game is a long while.
“I cannot tell you if it would be Iheanacho, Igha- lo, Brown Ideye or Iwobi that would be in the line- up. There’re several new strikers that want to play for Nigeria and that are doing very well for their clubs. You cannot also rule out the issue of injuries but we’ll do our best to be ready for the tie against Cameroon in Uyo and then go away to them.
“Every match is a difficult one in the race to qual- ify for Russia 2018. Cameroon and Algeria won’t be easy but the challenge of taking Nigeria to the World Cup and the players making their first ap- pearance is strong enough to see us through. That some of the players used their money to fly just to play for Nigeria underlines the determination that flows in the team.
“It’s not all about money but the conviction of the players ready to make the sacrifice they are making. As regards the game against Cameroon, a friendly international match against Senegal that plays the same pattern. This is with a view to get- ting a good grasp of what Cameroon would bring to the table. We can’t afford to take any team lightly but must be prepared.
The Super Eagles handler while speaking on the goalkeeping crisis in the team admitted giving up on his efforts to get Vincent Enyeama to come out of retirement.
“When we had crisis in our hands after Carl Ikeme’s injury, I called him over 10 times and he never responded nor called back. We just have to move on with life and let him be.”
The coach commended Dan Akpeyi for his prompt response and playing his role well. He needs to buckle up and rise to the challenge be- cause we can’t solely depend on Ikeme.
Enyeama had retired from international football after falling out with former Nigeria coach, Sunday Oliseh.
Speaking on the future of Mikel touted to be heading to Spanish side Valencia or China, Rohr revealed that he would prefer to have the midfielder remain in Europe instead of heading to China.
“We give assistance where necessary for our players and for our captain, Mikel, I would prefer he stays in Europe and get high caliber games. If he moves to China and remains in top form, he would remain with the team. There are other players we have that we hope they move in the January trans- fer window.”