The recent sack of the head coach of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr, did not come to many as a surprise. The sack came after the lackluster performance of the team with the Cape Verde and the Central African Republic during World Cup qualifiers. As usual, Rohr’s sack has attracted mixed reactions from concerned Nigerians. While some agreed that his sack was long overdue, others condemned the timing, coming close to the commencement of AFCON and the knockout stage of the qualification for the World Cup in Qatar.
Rohr has been coach of the senior national team in Nigeria since 2016, thus making him the nation’s longest serving national team handler ever. Before coming to Nigeria, Rohr had handled national teams of Gabon, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Until his sack, he was primed to lead the Super Eagles until December 2022.
Since his management of the Super Eagles, his performance can be said to be average. In his outing with the Super Eagles, he reportedly won 28 games, drew 12 and lost 13. He led Nigeria to a third place finish in the 2019 AFCON and took the country to the 2018 World Cup. Before his sack, the Super Eagles under his watch played eight matches and lost one against Central African Republic at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
He utilised some Nigerian talents around the world, playing a total of 82 players during his stint. He led Nigeria to two competitions, crashing out of the group stage at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, before winning the bronze medal at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt. Nigerians love good football and cherish victories. These were sadly missing in the Super Eagles under Rohr.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) led by Amadu Pinnick had promised on assumption of office to give Nigeria a befitting national team that will bring home more laurels. Gernot Rohr’s engagement as head coach apparently has not lived up to this billing. Many football pundits claimed that his technical competence is suspect and will never lead the country to football glory and greatness.
In his three decades of coaching, he had not coached a Grade ‘A’ team. Yet, he was saddled with the task of coaching the Super Eagles. Some critics believe that the decline in the nation’s football began immediately he was recruited. The terms of his contract were shrouded in secrecy. He is known to have shown up about a week to crucial games and fields completely foreign-based players at matches. Calls for his sack began early when soccer-loving Nigerians failed to see good tactics, discipline and technical depth in his handling of the Super Eagles.
However, the controversy over payment of Rohr’s salary when due is an issue, which could not be dismissed. Such practice was capable of affecting performance. To make matters worse, the team squandered a 4-0 lead to Sierra Leone considered a minion in football. After the lackluster draw in Lagos last month, all hopes dimmed that Nigeria will make any impact in Cameroon in January and may not even qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.
However, his sack at a time the team is preparing for AFCON and possible World Cup participation will definitely have some consequences. His replacement with the Augustine Eguavoen-led technical team, though an interim measure, is likely to make room for the appointment of another foreign coach.
Before another foreign coach is appointed, the Eguavoen team appears to be overcrowded and was probably not meant to achieve much. All the same, we urge the new technical team to offer their best in the development of the new Super Eagles as well as the overall development of the round leather game in the country.
The NFF must put the nation’s football house in order. Right now, it is in great disarray. It must show greater interest in the development of the nation’s football, starting with grassroots football, where new talents will be discovered annually. The present obsession with foreign coaches by NFF must be jettisoned in preference for local coaches. With the politicisation of our football, it will be difficult to recruit a world-class coach for the Super Eagles.
Therefore, the rejuvenation of the national team goes beyond the sacking of Rohr. We need a coach that will be interested in building the nation’s football and the new Super Eagles. Right now, we have apparently no team. What we have is an assemblage of patriotic players called to duty in ad hoc fashion in the name of Nigeria. And the result has been calamitous.
Despite the hanging gloom over the nation’s football, the situation is redeemable if the NFF is willing to do the right thing.