Nothing unites Nigerians like football and the Super Eagles is the ultimate symbol of that unity.
Therefore, with the country struggling to develop a sense of national identity amidst regional, ethnic, and religious cleavages, anything that appears to gash the country’s main uniting value, the Super Eagles, should not be treated with levity.
Gernot Rohr has overstayed his usefulness as Super Eagles’ head coach and should be eased out. The continuous retention of the Franco-German is evidence of an absolute lack of ambition in the nation’s football authorities.
In the last three months, Super Eagles have played six world cup qualifying matches. In all the matches, the rhythm and signature tune the Eagles were known for were completely absent. There was no sign of any coaching or preparation for the matches.
The Eagles struggled to win against Liberia and were beaten 0-1 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos by Central Africa Republic (CAR), before playing out a tame 1-1 draw at home to Cape Verde in a match that another goal from their visitors would have knocked the Eagles out of the race for Qatar 2022 World Cup.
The present Super Eagles players are arguably the best individual talents any coach can dream of, the best collection since the country’s golden generation in the mid-90’s.
Rohr has abundance of talent; he is just bereft of ideas and lacks the tactical nous to turn Super into a formidable team.
Any Nigerian coach would do better with the array of stars at Rohr’s disposal. The Super Eagles used to be alive, tenacious and fluent. Then, Nigerians watched their national team with excitement. Now they watch their insipid displays with a heavy heart.
Four Nigerian coaches who previously managed the Super Eagles were far better than Gernot Rohr. Festus Onigbinde guided the Super Eagles to finish second at the Cote d’Ivoire 1984 Africa Nations Cup. Shuaibu Amodu won bronze medals with the team at Mali 2002 and Angola 2010 respectively and also qualified Nigeria for Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010 World Cup tournaments, while Augustine Eguavoen also took the Eagles to third place finish at the Egypt 2006 AFCON. The late Stephen Keshi won Nigeria’s third AFCON title with mostly home-based players and relatively unknown foreign-based ones at the South Africa 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Therefore, if for any reason Nigeria’s Eagles should be managed by a foreigner, it ought to be someone of high pedigree and not a journeyman whose best credentials before coming to Nigeria were that he had coached African football minnows like Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso. If such a person is not a high-level intellect, he would definitely be overawed by the stature of players that abound in Nigeria.
Nigerians have seen Super Eagles under the watch of both foreign and local coaches before Rohr but never a time had they seen their team as shambolic as it is now: no sense of direction; no discernable pattern of play; no fighting spirit; no established first eleven; no rhythm. This is not the Eagles that they were used to. This is not why Nigeria pays Rohr N18.45 million monthly, a salary that not even the country’s president earns in that period.
Rohr has set a record as the longest serving coach to handle the Super Eagles since his engagement on August 9, 2016. Five years is enough for a coach to build a formidable team that can show it can be reckoned with in Africa and globally, but since he arrived in Nigeria, the German is yet to mould a national team that can be properly so-called, a team fans can be confident of winning.
This newspaper understands the dilemma of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in sacking Gernot Rohr abruptly as it will mean coughing out over N600 million in severance package for the German since his new contract with the football body will expire after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Nigeria has been to six World Cup tournaments, reaching the second round on three occasions, which were not good enough considering the fact that Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana made it to the quarter-finals in 1990, 2002 and 2010 respectively. Therefore, the target for Eagles, like every other African team to Qatar 2022, is to surpass the quarter-finals stage which will be impossible with Gernot Rohr in charge. That is if the team makes it to Qatar. There is still a two-legged playoff ahead. With Rohr, there is no confidence Nigeria will qualify.
The argument that NFF is stuck with Rohr based on his contractual terms is unacceptable to this newspaper. The NFF must find a way around that obstacle, but Rohr must go.