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As Rohr exits the Nigerian football space, what next?

Photo Credit @CreativeCommons

The Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) decision to fire Gernot Rohr as head coach of the Super Eagles has created a whirlwind of comments from football enthusiasts.

Rohr, a Franco-German was fired as Super Eagles coach after more than 5 years as manager due to what NFF President Amaju Pinnick was quoted as describing as a “lack of discipline in the team”.

Football enthusiasts and other stakeholders interviewed by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Calabar on Monday expressed a range of opinions on the issue.

While some considered Rohr’s dismissal premature, others said it was long deserved.

According to Judex Okoro, a sports journalist, Rohr’s dismissal was long-anticipated, since the much-travelled former Eagles gaffar had become out of touch with modern football coaching tactics.

African sojourn

Rohr had a 17-year playing career, 12 of which were spent at Bordeaux in France.

He was born in Mannheim, Germany, and began his career at the age of 19 under one of Europe’s finest managers, Udo Lattek.

He won two Bundesliga titles and the Champions League (European Cup) in 1974, alongside all-time greats such as Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Paul Breitner, and ex-Bayern President Uli Hoeneß.

He became a cult hero at Bordeaux after winning consecutive French crowns in 1984 and 1985, under the supervision of Aimé Jacquet’s.

Bordeaux had the great Zinedine Zidane, Christophe Dugarry and Bixente Lizarazu in their squad. The pinnacle of that run was a 3-2 aggregate victory over Italian giants, AC Milan, in the quarterfinals, which was all the more astonishing considering Milan had won the first leg. In the second leg, Rohr’s popularity with the fans hit an all-time high as he masterminded a stunning 3-0 home win over the highly-rated Italian side.

In 2005, he embarked on a journeyman career , which was interrupted by sackings and falling outs with clubs, such as Nantes, Étoile and Young Boys. This led to his desire to test his managerial skills in national team football, this time on the African continent.

Rohr managed Gabon during their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) hosting campaign, when they reached the quarter-finals, before losing out on penalties to the Eagles of Mali.

The 68-year-old German tactician guided Burkina Faso to the World Cup 2018 qualifying final phase, after taking up the job there in 2015. He was to part ways with Burkina Faso for “personal and professional reasons”.

Having also coached Niger from 2012 to 2015, Rohr must have convinced himself that he now had a reasonable grasp of African football.

Clearly, he was unruffled by the turbulent experiences he had in Niger and Burkina Faso. he So, when on August 9, 2016, he was engaged by the NFF to fill the empty position of technical adviser of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, Rohr promptly jumped at the job.

Super Eagles manager

Rohr took over the reins after Nigeria failed to qualify for the AFCON for the second consecutive time.

With him in the saddle, Nigeria became the first African nation to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2017, after defeating Zambia.

But, according to goals.com, the Franco-German team manager failed Nigeria in a number of critical ways.

Despite having an abundance of talent at his disposal, Rohr failed to win any trophy since taking charge over five years ago, making his tenure as the country’s longest-serving manager ironical.

Under his tutelage, Nigeria’s best outing at any tournament was a third-place finish at the 2019 AFCON.

Many Football followers have complained that for a soccer power-house like Nigeria, 5 years without a trophy was simply unthinkable.

“He’s the longest-serving Technical Adviser of the Super Eagles but with nothing to show, Mr Cain Okoro told goals.com.

Rohr, according to some football lovers, has never seemed to get his selections right. They say his formations appeared more like a team of stars rather than a star-team.

The newspaper cited Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa, as an example. As the paper put it, Musa continues to play for the senior national team despite being clearly beyond his peak.

Another player mentioned by the publication is the Everton FC of England midfielder, Alex Iwobi. it said while Iwobi, the nephew of the legendary JJ Okocha, may be the Eagles’ leading play-maker, he has continued to fall short of expectations.

According to Oqua Etim, a former Chairman of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Cross River State chapter, Rohr could not develop a unique playing pattern for the team, unlike his predecessors.

“The standard of the team has nosedived under his watch. He failed to follow the local league and by so doing, couldn’t discover talents to groom for future,” he said.

He gave kudos to Rohr, however, for improving Nigeria’s position in the FIFA rankings.

In recent years, the Super Eagles’ style of play has been entertaining, characterized by a lethal attack that made their games engaging to watch. However, goals.com believes that under Rohr, Nigeria cannot be said to have a particular style of play, as their 1-1 draw with Cape Verde in November seemed to demonstrate.

Now that Rohr has departed, there is still much work to be done as the 2021 AFCON approaches, and Nigeria still far from certain to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

(With agency report)

Writing by Saadatu Albashir; Editing by Tony Okerafor