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Coach Gernot Rohr: The big test, great secrets!

This period for me is a very interesting one, if not for anything else, we are beginning to see the product of the wrong seeds we have been sowing since our nation became independent. The seeds have grown and are producing fruits, and at the time we should happily step forward to harvest what we have sown, we are staging a withdrawal, with lamentation in our mouths that the products we see are not what we expected. I see forlorn faces everywhere. Our demeanor is reflective of the way of foolish people. It is a sign of a warped mindset, because only misdirected people who have taken misdirection as a norm will sow yam and expect to reap rice. Nature we ought to know by now does not work this way. I titled the essay I intended for today,  “Nigerian leaders, bad workmen” and I wanted to use it to push the argument that our trouble is not with Satan or many human agents of the devil; it is not in our stars either as religion has nothing to do with our backwardness if we take note that South Korea is neither a Christian nor Muslim nation, yet has made tremendous progress within a short time. The problem with our nation is us the citizens, it is about poor leadership and institutionalized poor governance culture which has lasted for long because the people are so passive even over issues that constitute threat to their lives. Sometimes I wonder if it is a coincidence that all our presidents were either imposed or reluctant candidates.
What is our economic model: capitalist, welfarist or socialist? Why is it that we have high prices, yet lesser choices? Last week, the judiciary added to their record of infamy with their ban on publicizing allegations of misconduct against their officers. In which sane society can such a prescription be made?
I will leave politics and governance issues for now. I want to talk football once again and am doing so from a standpoint of deep social responsibility. As am used to saying on this page, writing in the main should not be about self-satisfaction, even though it is part of it. Writing should be motivated by a burning desire to bring positive changes to one’s society especially in our kind of environment where every structure and institution for proper governance is either still very rudimentary or has been recklessly run down. The big task for any public commentator should not just be about agenda setting, it should be more about bringing issues to superlative conclusions. Unfortunately, like many other wrong steps we take, we have come to see football and in fact other sporting activities as not worthy of meticulous attention. Yet, if history is true, football and sports generally are big weapons at the disposal of developing nations to announce their arrival into the big stage. China with all her giant developmental strides is spending billions of dollars to make their domestic sports very attractive to foreign players; it has also announced her intention to be a world football power by the year 2050. This is how nations with an equipped leadership go about systematic and progressive development of their society. Nigeria should be no exception.
Our wish is for the Super Eagles to be in the World Cup, Russia 2018; our participation would be good for local football, our psychology, player exposure and national prestige. For the qualifying matches, our group is not an easy one but like I keep saying for a nation like ours, we ought to be the favourites and this would be irrespective of the group we find ourselves. We still remain one of the most blessed nations in terms of football talents. What has come between us and sustained honour is leadership and mobilization. It is exactly for this reason that this time around all hands should be on deck to ensure the Super Eagles qualify for the next World Cup. From my analysis Algeria appears to be the biggest obstacle to our chances for qualification, but am glad fixtures favour us to get the better hand if only we can put our acts together especially for the first leg match scheduled for Uyo on November, 12th.
Defeating Algeria is a task our team can do if the handlers can fathom out what is involved. I watched the Nigeria-Zambia match and then the Algeria/Cameroon match, both were different in many respects; the atmosphere in Algeria where Cameroon was the visiting team was more charged and the game more rigorous than what the Eagles faced in Zambia. The import is that Eagles biggest challengers could be found in Algeria and Cameroon, two teams they are yet to meet and which games could be the decider. Algeria in Uyo would not be an easy prey to deal with; they too have already acknowledged that their fate lies with the outcome of this encounter. What this suggests is that they are coming to Nigeria to play a game of their life; this should mean much to the handlers of the Super Eagles. I strongly advise the technical adviser of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr, to procure the match tapes of the final two-leg encounter between Mamelodi Sundowns FC and Zamalek FC in the confederation of African Football Champions Clubs Competition and critically watch them, they have some useful lessons.
The Super Eagles’ coach has a lot to learn from the South African approach to those matches: at home the tactics adopted were totally different from the one that was employed away. At home the South Africans knew the North Africans would crowd their defense, approach the front slowly and make frequent feigns of injuries to kill the enthusiasm of the home team. But Sundowns’ bench responded very well with quick attacks anchored on skill, near perfect control of the ball and of course frequent attempts at goal. Their energy level was high and that enabled them to play 90 minutes of attacking football. This explains why Zamalek went down 3-0 in South Africa. In Algeria, the Sundowns players’ ingenuity succeeded in dimming the steaming urge of Zamalek players to cancel Sundowns three-goal lead in the early minutes of that game. To achieve this, Sundowns goalkeeper had to fall many times, pretending to be injured. By so doing the tempo of the game slowed down to the discomfort of the home team and resulting to the disorientation of the Zamalek players. This put pressure on them and gave the visiting team the latitude to organize the game according to their plan. Super Eagles coaches would definitely find the tapes of those matches very useful especially against the fact that Super Eagles’ build-ups are still slow, poor shooting ability, low energy level and a suspect defense.
The stage we are in is a crucial one and all distractions must be avoided. The players demand to be paid their allowances in foreign currency is a misnomer. Even if it was done in the past, it is a mistake carried too far. The players are Nigerians and should be paid with our national currency. This issue of foreign currency or nothing is one of the effects of neo-colonialism, which we must do away with in all facets of national life, presidency inclusive. All said, to beat Algeria is a task that must be done.


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April 2018
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