After a disappointing defeat by Egypt in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in March 2016 condemned the Super Eagles to sit out a second consecutive tournament, few could have foreseen quite how positive things would be a year on.
Interim coach Salisu Yusuf restored some positivity with a pair of friendly victories, although that was quickly dampened by the comic debacle of Paul Le Guen’s bungled appointment, and by the time Gernot Rohr was appointed in August, few had truly expected that the German could steer the Super Eagles back to the pinnacle of the continental game.
A tough qualifying draw for the 2018 World Cup saw Nigeria pooled in the dreaded ‘Group of Death’. Having to contend with the Zambia, Algeria and Cameroon, a good start was imperative if the three-time African champions weren’t to miss out on the extravaganza in Russia, two wins in two games followed; away at Zambia—supposedly the weakest side in the group—and home to Algeria, and it was clear that Rohr was getting Nigeria back on the right track.
There’s an English proverb, that “too many cooks spoil the broth.” And that is nothing new in Nigeria, where individuals are appointed to management and directorship positions, and then steered and micro-managed by a motley crew of interest groups. In the end everyone melts into thin air when disastrous results burst open. Exactly that is looming in the dark clouds hovering over the head of NFF. One defeat, and the swords are unsheathed, the horses charging, the mission unknown.
Many fans do not think Nigeria will be at the FIFA World Cup in Russia next year, simply because of the NFF Technical Committee that has now vowed to take over the coaching duties of Gernot Rohr and his assistants instead of allowing whom the job was given to, to spear head affairs of the team and thereby creating some unnecesary disturbance to the flow of activities in the Nigerian team.
It could all be wrong in assuming that it was not in his contract to submit a players’ selection list to the Technical Committee for what in Nigeria is called, “vetting.” But if it is, then Mr Rohr made a grave error in signing it. But if it was not, and is now affixed to the agreement on the basis of the loss against South Africa, then as a German, I would expect him to resist it, and maybe quit.
The most successful Nigerian coaches in post colonial history were the Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof and the late, and lamented “Big Boss” Stephen Keshi. Their achievements were a result of resilience against all odds, and resistance to meddlesome technical committees, writers and pundits. Even Dan Anyiam who became the first indigenous coach of the national team when he first took over from John Finch, demanded total control in both his stints
Gernot Rohr, is a meek and humble individual without notable successes as a soccer manager, and was not even the NFF’s first choice. It makes him prone to interference from the outside ironically by many eager to see him slip, and the mistake overlooked is that quiet people can be principled and stubborn, and that is what we’re very likely to see in the coming weeks if things continue as they have. A stand-off.
Add to the fray that as unassuming as Rohr is, he has also silently won the hearts of many fans in his short spell as coach and there is a quiet storm brewing among the local aficionados of the game who want him to be left alone and pick his own ingredients to spice up his team as he sees fit, Rohr can be said to have won the hearts of many fans who believe that the bafana bafana debacle is a minor setback that would be corrected in future games and want the NFF to let him alone to handle his business effectively as he has in time past done, save for the encounter against the visitors from South-Africas.
To those who will listen their mantra is “Rome was not built in a day”. History is there to teach us that this certainly has merit, regardless of which way the pendulum finally swings, there is no doubt that the Cameroon game on the 28th in Uyo will go a long way to determine the way forward for both Rohr, the Nigerian national team and NFF.
Ultimately, even the staunchest critic can’t deny that Rohr is building something beautiful, and while some Nigerians may object to having such a young squad, they needn’t panic so long it yields needed results, as can be seen in the upward surge of the Nigerian national team in the FIFA ranking and also in the African ranking of the team, needless to say Rohr’ tactics are yielding results, both locally and internationally and we can only get better.
..Credit – Goal.com