Nigeria: NFF Please Don't Cost Nigeria a World Cup Ticket

Soccer ball.
1 December 2021

Whichever way you look at it, sacking Gernot Rohr now is the most stupid thing to do. I know as a fact that the German was not the most popular coach we have employed. Some wanted him sacked almost as soon as he was nominated. Many wished a Nigerian should have been appointed. Others had candidates they were sponsoring. In the almost six years Rohr has been our national football team head coach, he has remained haunted. Almost like someone you expect to just drop dead. Or perhaps,he should just disappear.

Regardless of his situation, the German has been able to perform fairly creditable. He has a win rate of about 54%. He has qualified the Super Eagles for two Africa Cup of Nations competitions, one World Cup final, and is about to add qualification for a second World Cup. In other words, he has so far delivered on the contract he renewed with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). This piece is not about what Gernot Rohr has done right or wrong. I intends to look at all the parameters involved in asking him to go and possible implications for our country.

Let's take a look at our football calendar. In about six weeks we have the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) kicking off in Cameroon. We cannot possibly appoint a new coach and expect him to be able to compete favorably at the tournament. There has been talks of hiring another foreign manager for our team but it is going to be a near impossibility getting one to fit our bill in the time available before AFCON. Some have suggested getting a Nigerian coach to take over but it is going to be difficult knowing which one would fit our bill. Moreover, almost all of those who could do a good job are not in good stead with the NFF. Unless, of course, our football governing body eats the humble pie.

Asking anyone of Rohr's assistants to takeover would similarly be unproductive if the original target of playing in the final round of AFCON given to the German is maintained. I believe more than 70% of our present Super Eagles would be playing in Cameroon. I do not see them paying more respect to a coach that was hitherto a subordinate. We have tried changing coaches midstream before with little success. In 2002 Amodu Shaibu, Stephen Keshi and Joe Erico were replaced by Festus Onigbinde. We ended up being 27th which was our worst placing up till that time.

I do not know why this frenzy to sack Rohr is gaining currency except to conclude that forces against his being employed have coalesced to capitalize on perceived flaws.

My view is that now is not the time to ask the German to go. What I think we should do is support him massively to succeed. We can not even afford to sack him. I am told he is being owed about 5-8 months salary if his monthly wage is around 46000$ then we would need first to pay his areas and pay an additional penalty for prematurely terminating his contract. Where would an NFF owing just about everybody get the funds? Now is not the time to derail our World Cup plan if we have one. As at the moment, Gernot Rohr is the best option to qualify Nigeria for the World Cup. Those who want him out will tell you that at the moment our Super Eagles would not be able to beat any of the nine teams that have qualified for the final round. That is simply not true. On a good day, our team can beat any of the qualified teams. What we should be doing is putting all hands on deck to ensure we win. We should engage our coach on what he needs to succeed. Get our players to commit to qualifying for the World Cup. Pay all monies owed to them. Increase their winning bonuses if need be. Choose a venue that would help galvanize the players.

This is not an endorsement for Gernot Rohr. I believe he was less than adequate in Russia. If he was sacked immediately after Russia2018, not many would have complained. Instead, he was forced to take a pay cut and given some targets to be achieved within a two-year contract. So far he has delivered in almost ALL aspects of the agreement signed. True, we lost to lowly rated Central African Republic (CAR) and drew with Cape Verde. These results to me are indicative of a need by all concerned to get more serious. Sacking Rohr now can only help him and hurt us. He will smile to the bank and use his play log with the Super Eagles to get a new and maybe a better job. Please, do not let us throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let's help Gernot Rohr to help us. We must qualify for the World Cup. And we still can if we get less emotional and more practical and proactive. We have deliberately over hyped the mistakes there were in other to make our team look worse than they are. Getting a draw against Cape Verde, particularly when that is all we need isn't as bad as critics made it appear. By the way, the same Cape Verde defeated 'All-mighty ' Cameroon 3-1 earlier this year.

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