25 March 2019

Nigeria: Is Gernot Rohr On the Right Part With Super Eagles?

Photo: The Guardian
Gernot Rohr.

It has been 32 months since the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) named Gernot Rohr as the manager of the Nigeria national football team, called the Super Eagles.

In that time, he has superintended the qualification for the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Cup.

In qualifying for these two competitions, Rohr ensured qualification before the last round of matches - a commendable feat, based on past national team experiences.

Six losses [24 per cent] in 25 competitive and friendly matches should be a good record on any manager's results sheet. But for Rohr, it begs more question because the six losses have come against South Africa, Serbia, England, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Argentina.

In the current FIFA ranking, only South Africa ranks below Nigeria in 74 - while the other five countries rank above Nigeria in her 46th position. In an interview before the dead rubber African Cup qualifiers against Seychelles last weekend, Rohr postulated the Eagles could not be considered favourites for the 2019 Nations Cup scheduled for Egypt on account of their present ranking in Africa.

Downplaying the Eagles

"There are other countries in front of us, I think we are fourth," Rohr revealed. "There is Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt - that may be favourites at home for the AFCON, there is also Senegal in front of us.

"The ranking is not just the latest results, but for a few years. In 2014, 2015, Nigeria was not great and did not qualify for the last two AFCON. It has somewhat handicapped its ranking at FIFA and Africa," he added.

Giving further credence to his thinking, he said, "We have to be optimistic but if you look at our players, how many of them are playing for big clubs? Who among them is playing in the Champions League."

If Rohr or his handlers had taken time to understudy Nigerians, they would have found out that Nigerians are always aspirational no matter the present circumstance. Thus he would not have asked such a rhetorical question because he would have known it would further undermine his already questionable pedigree to add anything substantial to the Super Eagles.

Have the Eagles improved under Rohr?

To answer the question, Rohr just needs to juxtapose his Eagles' squad with that of 2013 - the last time the Eagles were African champions, led by the late Stephen Keshi. In actual technical terms, that was the poorest Eagles' squad in many years but they played to their strengths and engaged the 'Nigerian Spirit' to snag the AFCON title for the third time.

That winning team had six players playing in the Nigeria Professional Football League; goalkeepers playing in Israel, and the biggest stars were Mikel Obi and Victor Moses - who were not actually regulars at Chelsea.

In another conversation, Rohr insinuated that the Super Eagles are weaker because none of the current players plays in a big team and consequently they are absent from the UEFA Champions League. "I watched the last Champions' league games and no Nigerian players.

"We don't have the big players like we used to have in the past; the likes of Austin Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Vincent Enyeama and the rest," he said. But, Okocha, as big as he became in world football was never a regular Champions League campaigner but he was always a buoyant factor in the national team, whether present or absent.

And really how many seasons did Enyeama compete in the Champions League? Maybe 2!

Expectations Will Not Diminish

While some have argued that Rohr is trying to downplay his team's chances in Egypt, it must be said that this is Africa and not the World Cup. At present, even without players in the big teams like the Manchester teams, Liverpool, Juventus, Milan duo, PSG, Bayern or Borussia Dortmund, there are enough talents that can be organised to win the Nations Cup.

If Rohr continues to hammer on the fact that Nigerians cannot dream of beating all comers come June in Egypt, what Nigerians are hearing is the fact that he is not competent enough to organise what we have and that really is why he is earning a humongous N208 million [£436,600] per annum.

The NFF could as well employ others who will gladly do his job extremely better!

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