Omoniyi Salaudeen Nigeria is back again on its familiar terrain: election-induced violence. Like never before, there has been increasing apprehension among the stakeholders about the possible resurgence of violence that had always characterised the previous elections in the country. This is further heightened by the prevailing insecurity in some parts of the country. And lately…
Let me start with your unpronounceable name which I continue to miss like a sad, angry, frustrated footballer missing a crucial last minute penalty.
A name I find difficult to remember or even spell, hence I shamefully resort to Google to find your name O great coach, our German machine man.
You who took us straight to the World Cup even before the battle was over and with a match still left to play against Algeria. You whose inscrutable face reminds me of the Great Sphinx, that timeless, lion-faced and lion-body statue with a missing nose that I twice saw in Egypt during my visits to the pyramids of Giza. It is a face of sadness and a face of triumph wrapped in the enigma of your name: Gernot Rohr. A name roaring at you like lion: Rohrrrrrrrr!!!!!
When you newly took this job as the coach of the Super Eagles, I really felt sorry for you. To be honest, I didn’t have much hope on you. I just took it all in lukewarmly. You had come here with strings of defeats and a record of firings. Such is the life of a coach. The riskiest and the most dangerous job on earth.
In the world of football, everybody is a coach. Every spectator thinks he or she knows it better than the coach. Like Brazil, Nigeria is land of million coaches, all reading the mind of the coach as the match progresses.
Everybody knows it, that as a coach you are as good as your last match, your last victory. Today, they are crying hosanna and hailing you and throwing you up to catch you as you land. Tomorrow, they are crying: “Crucify him, crucify him. He is not good. He is a yeye coach. He must be sacked.”
Such is the life of a coach. A dangerous life. A life on the firing line. A job that is a constant nightmare. A Boko Haram time bomb waiting to explode at any time and in the marketplace of our wounded soul and psyche.
Your life has been a battle, a victim of bruising battles on the soccer field. Your head is bloody but unbowed. Your face is scarred with defeats and victories. Let me go back to Google to trace your chequered path as a coach. In 1996, you lost to Bayern Munich home and away as coach of Bordeaux. You had a famous 3-0 victory over AC Milan. In 2010 Etoile Sportive fired you. On December 3, 2009 FC Nantes fired you. On February 21, you became the coach of Gabon. From there you left for Niger where you coached for two years and resigned in October 2014 or even fired. Then to Burkina Faso where you were sacked soon after in December 22, 2015. Next, you were shortlisted by Guinea but lost the job. Then finally, you got this job.
Fate brought you to Nigeria to coach the Super Eagles who have a habit of turning easily into Super Chickens. You came to Nigeria fortuitously. And the rest is history. You won your first match. A lone goal against Tanzania. Then lost shamefully to South Africa here in Uyo by 2-0. It was one loss that could have cost you your job but thank God you survived it. Losing to South Africa was our wakeup call. We smelled the coffee. We woke up. Now we are in the World Cup. We are the world. Miraculously we came from 2-0 down to beat the great Argentina 4-2 in a friendly in Russia. What a mighty win! For us, this is a good omen. A signal that the best is yet to come.
Thank you for taking us to Russia on the wings of fate and faith. Who else will be my man of the year, if not you? We found ourselves in the Group of Death, yet you brought us life. You brought us good luck. You brought us victories. We came out unscathed. Tanzania fell at home. Even the mighty Cameroon, our perennial nemesis were beaten. For us Nigeria, the best is yet to come. The world hasn’t seen anything. Our Eagles will fly and shock the world at the World Cup.
On this score, I give you this honour as Nigeria’s MAN OF THE YEAR. I won’t say because you are not a Nigerian, I won’t give you what is your due. As the Good Book says, “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” Today, you are the conquering Caesar of Nigerian football. You have made us happy again.
What would it have been, if Nigeria had not qualified to play in the World Cup? It is just unimaginable. Thank you for saving us from this disgrace. Thank you for leading us to beat Argentina. Thank you. Let me thank you in French and in German since you are Franco-German. Merci beaucoup! Danke!
Yesterday, was the D-Day. The lot was cast in a raffle draw. Regardless of where we are grouped, be it a Group of death or Group of life, we are not afraid. The Lord is with us. We shall overcome. We shall soar like true eagles in Russia. Somebody tell the world: The Super Eagles are coming!