By Fred Nwaozor
Since February 24, 2016 when Sunday Oliseh resigned as the Coach of the Super Eagles, the technical committee of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) had relentlessly sought for an astute personnel that would fill the vacuum, till August 5, when the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF announced the appointment of Gernot Rohr as the new Technical Adviser of the team.
It would be recalled that prior to the appointment of Rohr as the Chief Coach of the Nigeria’s national team, several individuals, both indigenous and foreign, including Samson Siasia, Paul Le Guen and Salisu Yusuf, had been contracted to man the team. Siasia who was appointed following Oliseh’s resignation, though on an interim basis, was shown the way out owing to his inability to qualify the team for the forthcoming African Cup of Nations (AFCON) to be hosted by Gabon in 2017.
Subsequently, in July 2016, the NFF pronounced the appointment of the French 52-year-old football tactician – Paul Le Guen as the Head Coach of the Super Eagles, only for the appointee to reportedly reject the offer, perhaps due to inability of the board to consent to some of his demands. Following the contract failure, Salisu Yusuf was asked to man the team for the time being, till penultimate month when the new masquerade was unveiled.
Hence, the appointment of the 63-year-old German, Gernot Rohr, as the new substantive manager of the Super Eagles was long overdue. However, his appointment has been greeted with mixed feelings. Some people are of the view that he was not qualified for the job, whilst others saw no reason an indigenous coach didn’t deserve the honour. In his words, the Ex-FIFA and CAF executive member, Amos Adamu has unequivocally stated that Nigerian soccer would not get better under the tutelage of the German. According to Adamu who is a past sole administrator of the NFF, the new coach ‘who is relatively unknown’ lacks the pedigree to coach the team.
Rohr, who was contracted for a 2-year term at $47,000 (about 18 million) per month, is a former footballer. Until his appointment, he was working with the German Football Federation (GFF) on developmental programmes. In ’96, he managed Girondins Bordeaux, France to the UEFA cup final, where they lost to Bayern Munich. From October ’98 to April ’99, he was the sports director of Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany. In 2009, he was the head coach of the FC Nantes of France.
In 2010, he was in charge of Gabon national team. In September 2012, he became the manager of Niger national team, and resigned in October 2014. In 2015, he was the Technical Adviser of the Burkina Faso national team till December 22, 2015 when he was sacked. Furthermore, in July 2016, he was shortlisted for the Guinea national team job.
Since Nigeria won’t make it to Gabon come 2017, what currently matters to any Nigerian football enthusiast is for the new coach to ensure that the Super Eagles’ absence wouldn’t be equally felt in Russia come 2018 for the next FIFA World Cup. Thus, the Russia 2018, expected to take place between June 14 and July 15 2018, ought to be seen as the prime target of the new Super Eagles’ boss. Though he has already stated that he would ‘make the Eagles fly again’, I beg to believe more in actions.
In the qualifying stage of the said global tournament, Nigeria which is in Group B is grouped alongside Algeria, Cameroon, and Zambia. History has it that the aforementioned three teams have, ab initio, been reckoned to be among the best African national teams, till date. Suffice it to say that the highly revered Super Eagles are placed in a tight corner as regards the ongoing search for a ticket that would guarantee their presence as well as participation in the quadrennial event. It has been adjudged that the team is in ‘Group of Death’. The first official outing of the new manager took place on Saturday September 3, 2016 in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State during the match between the Super Eagles and the Taifa Stars of Tanzania as the remaining AFCON 2017 qualifying fixture, in which both teams played merely for pride considering that the Pharaohs of Egypt has won the only ticket at stake in the group. Although the Eagles defeated the opponent, it is imperative to acknowledge that Rohr has an enormous task ahead. The defence and the attacking midfield need to be strengthened headlong. And the team must be properly trained for teamwork rather than individual performance.
On October 3, the Chipolopolo of Zambia would be hosting the Eagles for their first outing in the qualifying round. Obviously, the days away are too short. It is noteworthy that the awaited outing would contribute in determining the fate of the Eagles. It should be taken very seriously by the management of the team.
On the choice of players, I suggest that the coach should focus more on indigenous players rather than the foreign ones. On this note, he must endeavour to watch the remaining crucial matches of the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) to enable him select better legs that can compete against the Zambia. Similarly, he mustn’t rely on one goalkeeper due to contingencies.
Moreover, Gernot Rohr needs to watch virtually all the past matches of the Eagles in a bid to make consequential amendments. The NFF, on its part, must not trivialize match bonuses of the players and coaches toward avoiding apathy among them. The time might be short, but if well planned, Super Eagles will surely fly again. Think about it!
Nwaozor writes from Owerri