By Chidi Obineche
on August 10, 2016, Gernet Rohr was unveiled as the Super Eagles manager succeeding home boy, Sunday Oliseh in a wave that spelt resignation, apprehension and literal consternation on Nigerian football fans. The football family had then smarted from a succession of indigenous handlers of the national team that had bred poor results, fatigue and incipient chaos. He was virtually unknown and had only done unimpressive stints with football minions like Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso. He was also 63 years old at the time and was feared not to be abreast with modern football knowledge and managerial techniques. From September 3, 2016, when he had his first baptism of fire with the plucky Taifa Stars of Tanzania in a nation’s cup qualifier, he has had successful runs culminating in the first ever qualification of the Super Eagles for the World Cup with a match to spare.
Nonetheless, last Tuesday, November 13, 2017, the unimaginable virtuoso happened. In faraway Krasnodar, Russia, Nigeria subdued Argentina, ranked fourth best team in the world and a striking football foe that has over the years festooned psychological fear and naked intimidation on the nation. And it came in grand style and drama; from two goals down in the first half to an emphatic throb of 4 goals in the second half (4-2). The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF had based his contentious appointment on the plank of calmness, good knowledge of the African terrain, focus and maturity. Previous expatriate coaches of the national team had often been riled with loquaciousness, technical and racial snobbery, profiteering through sales of players to foreign clubs who they often fielded for exposure regardless of skill and form, and excessive vacation abroad. After 12 matches in the saddle; 22 goals scored and just one solitary defeat in the hands of South Africa, a new song is playing on the lips of those who opposed his engagement. A level headed and down to earth person, he is said to have built his team around “communication, mutual respect, and discipline.”
After the 4-2 win over a star- studded Argentina side with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Angel Di maria, Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega, and Paulo Dybala, Rohr declared at the post match press conference in his vintage humble mien that Nigeria will not now win the World Cup. “It’s good victory for us but it doesn’t mean we’ve become favourites to win the World Cup. We stay humble and realize we have more work to do.” Interestingly, Rohr achieved this feat with no known world superstar. Indeed, the Algerian Coach, Rabah Madjer before last week’s World Cup qualifier described the Super Eagles players as “ bench warmers in Europe except Alex Iwobi.” Rohr has given genius a better discerning, a sharper impetus. He has demonstrated in practice that no matter how tough the bargains of your appointment are, or how enormous the challenges are, remain calm, stay strong. He is like a candle that comes to the minds of Nigerian football fans when there is darkness. He walks the words of William Shakespeare in “Give thy thoughts no tongue.” He is putting our football dreams on a ladder and keeps climbing without looking down. He is a champion who has shown up to give everything he has. We all learn from T.D Jakes that, “ You cannot conquer what you are not committed to.” He tells us that pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work. He is holding our vision and trusting the process. He is not waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. He is lighting it himself. And to cap it all, he is not distracted by things that have nothing to do with his goals. And for real, he is setting the souls of Nigerian football fans on fire by not telling fibs.
He was born on June 28, 1953 in Mannheim, Germany. Until his appointment as Super Eagles manager, he was working on development programmes for the German Football Association ( DFB). He was a defender in his playing days for Bayern Munich, SV Waldhof Mannheim, Kickers Offenbach and Bordeaux. His coaching career which started in 1990 at Bordeaux of France, also took him to Creteil, Nice, EtoileSahel of Tunisia, Nantes of France, Gabon, Niger, Burkina Faso, among others.