With less than 10 days to Nigeria beginning their march to Cameroon for a second consecutive Africa Cup of Nations appearance (a feat the nation hasn’t achieved since 2010), uncertainty lies over the future of German coach Gernot Rohr.
Appointed in August 2016 to steady the ship after a tumultuous period in Nigerian football wherein the nation failed to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 continental championships, had three managers (Stephen Keshi, Samson Siasia and Sunday Oliseh) take charge of the Super Eagles in the space of 18 months and witnessed the “angered retirement” from the national team by the country’s most capped player Vincent Enyeama, Rohr has indeed coped fairly well in charge of the high demanding African nation.
His immediate task, on assuming the role, was to qualify the three times African champions for the 2018 World Cup, a task he managed to pull off superbly especially considering the quality of opposition in Nigeria’s group.
Nigeria under Rohr’s tutelage finished highest in a group consisting of then Africa’s highest-ranked side – Algeria, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon who were reigning African champions and 2012 Africa Cup of Nations winners, Zambia.
This great achievement coupled with the introduction of young exciting players, the seeming togetherness of players in the camp and a new footballing philosophy introduced by the former Gabon manager seemed to endear him to football lovers around the country and members of the top echelon of his employers, the Nigerian Football Federation.
His initial 2-year contract was quickly extended by a further two years, his needs were met on request; one such wish was his insistence on quality build-up games ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Fast forward to the World Cup proper and after picking up 3 points from his first two games, Rohr and his Super Eagles charges could have masterminded one of the shocks of the tournament.
But, somehow, inexperience on his part, especially in terms of game management and impactful late substitutions coupled with the naivety of his players, most of whom were playing on the world stage for the first time, cost Nigeria a place in the second round as they crumbled in the final stages of the final group game against Argentina.
The Nigerian press began questioning his tactical ability although he still retained the same levels of pre-World Cup backing from his employers, the NFF who gave him a vote of confidence to carry on preparations towards a first Nations Cup appearance in four years for Nigeria.
Again, he delivered in excellent fashion in qualifying for the continental showpiece.
Despite Nigeria finishing in third place in Egypt, Rohr’s reading of the game, his game management and penchant for delaying the substitution of flagging and spent players were brought to the fore and cries for him to quit and be replaced with a more tactically proficient manager got louder.
Rohr has always insisted that he wants to be in the job long term saying he desires to build a team that will be ready to conquer the world at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
He has, however, come under increasing fire in recent weeks and looks to have fallen out of favour with his employers and reports point to several reasons why he may not be retained beyond the expiration of his current deal – a bizarre situation given his current deal expires halfway through the qualification process for Cameroon 2021.
The NFF bigwigs are said to be displeased with Rohr for failing to honour certain parts of his contract (mind you, when the going was rosy, most of these terms were ignored).
A few of them include him continuing to live outside the country and only “visiting” when Nigeria have engagements, his failure to watch and follow domestic league matches and integrate most of the players into the national team – 99% of Rohr squads since 2016 have always had foreign-based professionals and the straw which broke the Camel’s back was him reportedly applying for the vacant Cameroon and DR Congo jobs despite being under contract with Nigeria.
Gernot Rohr meanwhile has his grievances with the NFF, one of which has been the reported delay in his wages recently, a report the NFF vehemently denies.
But the question which begs an answer is why is the NFF taking a coach who they most likely won’t extend his deal into a qualifying series?
With the players knowing their gaffer will depart in a few months, will they be willing to give a 100% and listen to his instructions?
Also, why don’t you let Rohr go now (if you’ll eventually let him go in 6 months’ time) and employ a new manger to instil his fresh footballing philosophy in the team through the qualifying phase leading up to the Nations Cup, instead of employing a coach with just about 10 months and a handful of games to a major championship.
A new coach will certainly come with a few new faces which will unbalance the current squad so why not give this “new coach” two full years to integrate these fresh faces and ideas into the Super Eagles fold?
These are some of the questions the NFF hierarchy should ask themselves before embarking on making any decision on the Super Eagles’ handler.
Whatever the case may be, Nigerian won’t be quick to forget the man who brought stability to the Super Eagles and returned Nigeria to their first Nations Cup since 2013 and who currently has one of the best win percentages of any Super Eagles manager in history.