Victories have a way of blinding people to their mistakes. It is more so for a backward and unthinking society like ours. In other climes where reason is forte and organisation is in place, they could be excelling in some aspects of life but they would tell themselves the truth that success which come without a foundation and structure is ephemeral, as success could easily turn to failure because they are built on nothing.
Some of us may not be very passionate about residual activities, but we take interest when it is known and understood that with the application of sound rationalization residual activities can be converted to become huge industries on their own, creating abundance for the individuals and society, and providing daily avenues for self-actualization. It is within this context that countries that want to make meaning out of life view and take sporting activities very seriously. They look at the teams and encourage those with knowledge to expose any shortcoming.
It is unfortunate that we have turned our country into a one-sport nation. Everyone including the policy makers talk about football and even at that the emphasis seems to be on the Super Eagles, the national football team. The emphasis is not backed up by any rigour, we hardly take time to assess the foundation and the processes. All we want to hear are call-ups, a team, and then victories, whether deserved or not. Nobody cares where the players come from, the foundation that is emerging from it, quality of victory and whether the trend is sustainable.
The Super Eagles under Coach Gernot Rohr is a quality team and this is irrespective of whether they qualified for Russia 2018 World Cup and now the 2019 African Nations Cup slated to hold in June in Egypt. It is just that we like to celebrate tokens otherwise with preponderance of talents in this country, qualifying from the African zone for any football tournament should not provide us a cause for celebration, rather we should celebrate, when we conquer or post impressive performances on the world stage. Given our population and talent we should be challenging Brazil, Germany, France, and not to celebrate over a draw game with Egypt at home or a win over Seychelles Republic. This is absurd; it is so because we don’t do the right thing and we do not care to look at our performance within the spectrum of quality. If we did, we would have long noticed that Super Eagles and their coach, Rohr, are disasters waiting to happen, and this could come through in the Nations Cup slated for Egypt some weeks from now.
Late Steven Keshi was an indigenous coach, and he took the Super Eagles to a second round defeat at the World Cup, but Rohr took the Eagles to Russia 2018 and exited miserably at the first round. The excuse he gave us was that his team was a young team, but the question we fail to ask would have been, why would a seasoned coach go to a big tournament such as the World Cup with a team he tagged “a young team”? Could it be he couldn’t find experienced players, or he was too lazy or still incompetent to build on the foundation he met? It is only our country that would go to a major tournament like the World Cup, with a goalkeeper that went to the tournament to learn. No serious nation does that. The team lacked pace and technique. Lack of conviction was responsible for their tossing the ball among themselves, mainly within their own half of the pitch. They hardly initiated any coordinated offensive; everything was left to individual brilliance for a team that was populated with mostly average players.
Our team to Russia had no classical striker and to make matters worse, there was no tactical play that could open any player to score goals. For some of us critical minds, their early exit from the World Cup was predictable. You could see it from the pre-tournament matches they played to their actual outing in Russia 2018. It was most glaring in their match with Argentina, where they needed a draw, and with 20 minutes left, they left their defence open, playing against a team of the quality of Argentina. Rohr should have been asked to go from there, but we didn’t.
The Eagles as presently constituted is not ‘Super’ The team lacks a goalkeeper of reputable standing because Uzoho is a washout. Ezenwa would have been good, but there are issues with his height and confidence. He walks the road of anxiety and that is not good for the kind of team that should be representing our country. He has determination, but determination is not a substitute for natural skill. Akpeyi has a good height, but he hasn’t proven his dexterity. Against Egypt he didn’t appear quick in starting the attack, and that for some of us is a cause for big concern. The defence is not what it is supposed to be, even though the good performances of Ekong and Balogun, the two ‘white men’ at the back should be acknowledged, yet their true worth should be tested against quality teams like Brazil, Germany, France, Spain etc.
The midfield is not it at all; there is no skilful player with presence in that area. Eagles are yet to find a player, whose contribution can change the nature of a game; the team is lacking playmakers. Playmakers can be natural ones or those transformed into one by the coaching crew, and that is the creative work Rohr has failed to do. He rather speaks about players who are doing well in their clubs but omits to let us know he has a responsibility to invite skilful players, even if they are not playing well in their clubs, train and remould them for national services. When Rohr talks about players he sounds like a spectator in the street, he talks about having good players but hardly makes reference to what it takes to tactically make out of them.
He talks about strikers, one time he is writing one off and bringing another; the way he talks he expects a striker to just score goals because he is a striker, and when he doesn’t get results he quarrels. The Eagles under Rohr have no build up moves to go scoring. Difficult to see the team moving and you perceive a goal coming. Every move looks like struggling, the crosses are just what they are ‘crosses’, hardly aimed at anybody. The throw-ins and spot kicks have no professional touch to them. Sometimes one wonders if the coach spares time to watch other teams play; in case he doesn’t he should be asked to watch the game between Tanzania and Uganda in the recent Nation’s cup qualifying series as well as a recent friendly match between Czech Republic and Brazil, and he will see pace, energy, skill, build-ups and how teams score goals, whether striker or not. It is time we tell coach Rohr to wake-up, lest disaster looms.