Just like his counterpart, Clemens Westerhof got hooked to a Zimbabwean lady during his sojourn in Africa, Super Eagles’ manager, Gernot Rohr may consider marrying a second wife.
The Franco-German gaffer, a big admirer of Nigerian ladies among other issues in an exclusive chat with Saturday Sun made this revelation. He spoke to Bunmi Ogunyale.
What has it been like since assuming your post as Super Eagles’ manager?
Well, settling down was a little difficult. I battled serious language barrier when I came to Nigeria newly. Although, I had worked in some African countries but most of them are French speaking countries. I had to learn English language in order to have better communication with my employers, my assistants and the players when I got to Nigeria. Now, it is better. I speak good English now and I’m enjoying every bit of my stay here.
As the World Cup draws nearer, are you being confronted with pressures from agents and officials to list their players for the final squad to Russia?
Yeah, I heard a lot of people saying offers will be made to get players in to the final squad but no one has approached me for such favour. No one has offered me money or any form of gratifications. What I get now are videos of Nigerian players for my consideration. I got the video of a Nigerian striker (Simeon Tochukwu Nwankwo) who scored two goals last weekend in the Serie A. I have heard about the player even before his videos was sent to me. So, we’ll assess the player and see if he’s good enough for the national team.
Are there targets for the Super Eagles at the World Cup?
Our main target is to qualify from the group. The World Cup is a battle ground and no coach the world over will tell you he’s going to win it before a ball is kicked. Every coach’s target is to take the game one after the other.
What strategies have you adopted to monitor the build-up of Super Eagles opponents?
We have the video tapes and have deployed scouts to watch their friendly games. My 30-year old son, who possesses a diploma in coaching, is also assisting us in tracking the teams and they will supply me with the information needed ahead of the World Cup.
I will also be at some match venues to see what the teams look like before the World Cup. Some of our opponents are seriously planning and they will play African teams to get ready for us.
Since the traditional wing play is a thing of the past for Super Eagles, what is the adopted playing style for the World Cup?
In football, formation or pattern of play can only be adopted based on the strength or quality of our team. We don’t have a Jay Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo or Amuneke (Emmanuel), so we decided to work and suffer together in our games. Our opponents’ strength will also determine the style or pattern to be adopted. We played 4-4-2 formation against Argentina in Krasnodar. We discovered Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi played well and also had enough space to play against the South Americans.
With Argentina, Poland and Serbia friendlies, would you say the Super Eagles are ready for the World Cup?
I don’t think so. We still have a lot of work to do. The World Cup is not a tea party. We must be ready mentally and physically for it. So, we’ll continue to work hard to put the team in top shape. For example, I spoke with Leon Balogun on phone after he broke his ribs and aside him, I also called the Mainz 05 manager to get a true picture of the incidence. Balogun is a very important and key player, so we continue to monitor his recovery. The other player is William Troost-Ekong who is not playing because of the new coach. The coach prefers Turkish players to foreigners. But we’ll continue to encourage the players and condition them for the task ahead.
Can you breakdown what you discussed with Leon Balogun’s coach?
Such discussions are basically tactical. Nothing more than tactical talks. Most coaches would want to find out about their players. The reasons they are not played or why they are played in different positions at club. Like I said earlier, we are aware of Leon’s injury and that of Onazi (Ogenyi) but we believe they should be ready for the World Cup.
What departments of your team are the strongest and the weakest?
I don’t think we have the strongest or the weakest department in the Super Eagles. What we have is a group of players that compliment each others on the pitch. We were able to beat the Polish team because the defenders fought hard in the early minutes of the game. Robert Lewandoski and co came into that friendly with the mindset to score early goals because a young goalkeeper Francis Uzoho was in goal. They thought he would be jittery but our defenders gave him the needed cover. So, no game is won with the attackers alone but an entire team to do so.
On a lighter note, are you likely to take a second wife in Nigeria just as Clemens Westerhof did in Africa?
(Laughs) My president (Amaju Pinnick) joked about it recently. He said he was going to hand me a Nigerian woman and we all laughed about it. To be sincere, Nigerian ladies are very beautiful and tempting but it is going to be very difficult to marry one. Language and cultural background will be a serious barrier.