The sacking of Gernot Rohr as the head coach of the Super Eagles a few days ago did not come as a surprise to many keen watchers of Nigerian football. His disengagement from the national team can be regarded by many as good riddance to bad rubbish having literally killed Nigerian football with his lackluster performance. However, the sack came a little too late. Much harm has been done before the sack. For the woes that befell Nigerian football under Rohr’s watch, the Franco-German national cannot be entirely blamed. He cannot be said to be responsible for all of them. Some known and unknown faces have been unduly interfering in the running of our football hence the poor development of the game in Nigeria.
Before Rohr, our football fortunes had been on a steady decline. Rohr only helped to bring it to its knees probably because of his seeming poor grasp of the round leather game or our players or the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) or all of the above joined together. Why was Rohr employed in the first place after his not too impressive outing in Burkina Faso? Why do we often despise and even demonize our local coaches? Why do we prefer foreign coaches, especially third rate ones? Besides, the politicization of football in Nigeria and the way some of the coaches are treated by the NFF also added to the woes of the game. How many coaches can give their best under the excruciating working conditions, including being owed salary for months and sundry allowances? Only a third rate foreign coach can tolerate such a shambolic treatment. Admitted that Rohr was part of Nigeria’s football problem, those in charge of our football, the NFF, are more the major culprits. They have stubbornly refused to develop our football despite suggestions by concerned Nigerians and football experts on the way forward for the game.
Therefore, it is a puzzle that Rohr managed the team for about five years having been engaged in 2016 and achieved the little he could for the team. But much harm had been done to our soccer by those who profit from our football failures. Without doubt, it will take years, I mean many years to repair the damage caused by the coach and his handlers to the team and the development of soccer in Nigeria. NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, stated that Rohr was sacked to avert an impending disaster in our football. However, I hasten to add that the disaster has already happened before the sack. In other words, the sack was belated.
Rohr’s sack at this point in time will definitely have some consequences, for good or for bad. His disengagement is going to affect our football, especially competitive games ahead. The news that Rohr is assembling a legal team to challenge NFF over compensation claims shows that more troubles are in the waiting for our football. We hope it won’t get to FIFA level. Moreover, the new technical team hurriedly set up is in the manner of our doing things, always ad hoc, and fire-brigade approach. Although I have deep respect for members of the interim technical crew but I think that it is crowded. Too many cooks will spoil the broth, even though they are all experts in their own right, in their specific departments of the round leather game. Although I am not a football freak but Rohr is not an example of my typical coach. As a new convert to the Premier League and the Champions League, Jurgen Klopp is my ideal coach. I admire Klopp’s ability to read a game and make wonderful adjustments and achieve great results. Rohr’s reading of matches is always anti-climatic, always producing the opposite effect. His team selection is nothing to write home about. He stays more outside than in Nigeria where he is supposed to stay and build a formidable team and scout for new talents that will feed the Super Eagles.
What about his condition of service? I don’t know much about this area but from our official culture of reneging on agreements with workers, especially university teachers and health workers, I don’t think Rohr was well treated by his employers. Pinnick admitted he was being owed some months of salary. Before another new coach is hired, the NFF and indeed Nigerians must really decide whether we want to develop our football or not.
The politicization of our football is why our national league is not very attractive. Our politicization of football is even why it will be difficult for any coach to succeed in Nigeria under the present circumstances. Until we begin to treat football as business, and a matter of talent and not an ethnic matter, our football woes will continue ad infinitum. Without adequate development of our grassroots football, no magician will perform miracle in our football. We cannot compete effectively in regional, continental and global soccer tournaments without having a sound technical backing for our football in terms of having world class coaches and players exposed to international football leagues. We also need to train people from all the departments of football for us to make appreciable impact in the round leather game. For now, raw talent is good but it is not enough to compete globally. Our team selection must be based on talent and exposure to the game, a blend of foreign and local players. In all, we must always field our best eleven. Another problem with Rohr has to do with team selection. Rohr’s team selection is not always our best eleven hence the lackluster performance.
His team lacks blend expected of a team. And these gaps were obvious whenever we face a stronger opponent. At times, we even struggle to get a draw from a weaker opponent or face an outright defeat. This was very much evident during the recent World Cup qualifiers where the Super Eagles didn’t perform as expected. For us to develop our football, government must stop the undue interference in the running of the game. The duty of government is to regulate football.
The government’s administration of the game and its meddlesomeness will definitely kill our football. We need to drastically overhaul our football house so that experts in the game can really take charge. Having non-experts running our football is highly inimical and deleterious to the development of our football. There is no point having as members of NFF those who do not have knowledge of football as some critics have observed. Now that the team is preparing for global and continental tournaments, let’s do the needful and reposition the nation’s football. We have so many football talents. The problem is discovering and utilizing them effectively.