The firing came not as a surprise to many in the inner corridors of Nigeria house of football. Gernot Rohr had coached the Nigerian flag bearer the Super Eagles and the nation had not seen inspired football or inspirational coaching.
It was time to move ahead. “We did everything that we could, but one major factor was that discipline in the team is lost practically. In the dressing room, discipline in the team was at its lowest ebb and once you remove discipline, that foundation in the team has cracked,” said Amaju Pinnick, President of the Nigerian Football Federation.
“Players now talk back at you, players believe that they are indispensable. A lot of factors that will now militate against the team. We are only owing about two matches of all the matches they played in both AFCON qualifiers and World Cup qualifiers.”
Former Eagles defender Augustine Eguavoen has stepped in, in the interim, as technical director.
Nigeria has not had a great run as football team for a long time. In spite of what many see as a bottomless pool of talents, Nigeria has continued to fall out of the elite of soccer nations.
Coaching has been one of our great foibles. When we did well, we always had a good man of ideas and charisma to pull us through. We can speak of all the years we did well, from the time of the Golden Eagles with men like Haruna Ilerika, Tony Igwe and Dominic Ezeani to the triumph of the African Nations’ Cup with Segun Odegbami, Muda Lawal and Christian Chukwu. We had the world hurrah when she snagged the Olympic gold in Atlanta.
We have not lacked for good players. We have never lacked for the resources either. But we have failed to organise ourselves for glory. What is lacking also is an understanding that we should be one of the world’s soccer superpowers. We have fallen short because we have failed to invest in talent at the highest level in the world.
If we could beat a Brazil or an Argentina at a top level in the past, it means we can do it again. That also means we should equip ourselves with coaches comparable in stature and funding with the men who coach those countries.
What we need is a coach that does not necessarily come on the cheap. That will mean some money. The argument has been that maybe the NFF may not be able to afford it. But that point is suspect. We play international matches in which we invite up to 28 players from overseas and that comes at a great expense. We pay their tickets, allowances and boarding while they are here. Yet, we may not field many of them. That amounts to a waste of resources. And the matches may not merit that much investment, especially if they are matches that are for low-level teams.
We can do two things. One, the Nigerian state can invest, in collaboration with the NFF, to secure a great coach, which implies that Nigeria pays for him. Two, the coach will be domiciled here and can design a strategy and programme to develop local talent over a period.
We have had some try with good coaches with Manfred Hoener, Westerhof and Bonfrere Jo. We need to take this a few notches higher. In the age of globalised soccer, we can tap the genius before our eyes. Boys of teenage brilliance can be turned into instant world phenoms. It takes a few more efforts and earnest searching.
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With Rohr gone, we don’t need a raw deal again. We hear they owed the man some salaries. Such incidents should not happen. We look forward to a post-Rohr era without such errors.