NFF and the Gernot Rohr dilemma

[By VICTOR NZE]

Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has pushed itself into a corner of sorts as the widespread dissent by Nigerians over the negative tactics deployed by coach for the national team, the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr gathers steam and rising to a deafening pitch.

NFF President, Amaju Pinnick with Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr

Caught in between terminating the appointment of the Germany ex-international gaffer of the Super Eagles and endorsing him to continue on his contract fulfillment, the NFF is secretly hoping all the uproar can at least die down, till the end of the World Cup in Qatar, that is, if the country qualifies.

If Nigeria do not make it, then perhaps, it is all the more easier for the football governing body of the country to call time to the service of Rohr.

Gernot Rohr was first appointed by the NFF for the Super Eagles and also to oversee technical matters for all the national teams in 2016. That contract was renegotiated and extended in 2020 ahead of qualifying matches of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, all taking place in 2022.

Rohr was specifically tasked with qualifying Nigeria for those two major events. He has accomplished one, the AFCON, while on the verge of completing the other, having reached the final Third Round of the Africa qualifiers World Cup, only last Tuesday, after topping Group C ahead of Cape Verde.

Super Eagles of Nigeria

Since his appointment, the German has also overseen tow other competitions, the AFCON in Algeria, and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Nigeria are presently ranked by FIFA in 5th.

Even by the own admission of the NFF, Rohr has stayed to his contract.

NFF President, Mr Amaju Pinnick, responding to the sack rumours surrounding Rohr, Friday, dismissed the reports.

“The Board of the NFF is studying the report of the Technical Committee, which it submitted after the match against Cape Verde in Lagos on Tuesday,” Pinnick said in a statement released to the media.

“There are a number of possibilities, but we have not taken a decision to sack Gernot Rohr.

“I want to assure that whatever decision is eventually taken will be one that will please the generality of Nigerians,” Pinnick added.

However, that position does not sit well with millions of Nigerian football followers, who seemingly can no longer stomach his negative approach to football tactics, as they claim that the Super Eagles have regressed in the five years the German has been in charge of technical matters.

These fans believe the Eagles may not even scale through the Africa playoffs going by their level of performance, which they claim is appalling, as they were dragged across the finish line last Tuesday against by striker Victor Osimhen.

For them, with the likes of other top teams in the Africa playoffs, Nigeria will find it tough, if not impossible to make it through to Qatar World Cup.

One of those is the former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who stated in an interview, Friday, that Rohr’s five years as Eagles coach have been wasted as far as football in the country is concerned.

“In the last five years, we have wasted our time in football. There is nothing new we are doing any longer. To see a country with many professional players home and abroad struggling to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup is heart-breaking.

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“Gernot Rohr is not a good coach and I don’t understand why he is still managing Super Eagles.

“When I Was Governor, he applied to become employed as Enyimba coach. He was brought to Nigeria by Oscar Udoji but I refused to employ him.

“I am calling on the Chairman of NFF, Mr Amaju Pinnick to wake up and to quickly find a replacement for Rohr,” Kalu said.

Ex- international, Julius Aghahowa also joined in the Super Eagles and coach bashing when he summed up by saying the country cannot ‘move forward like this.’

“If you talk of the players, the talents are there, the players have the capabilities but we are not having the coach to bring out the best in these players.

“I saw a couple of players that were not supposed to be in that team that day.

“We don’t have a playmaker. I think somebody was wearing the playmaker’s number, 10, but when you saw the play he could not carry the ball, to drive with the ball, and go and meet your opponents before releasing the pass.

“You are giving a pass when there is no one marking you so how do we progress from this pattern of football that we are playing. I don’t think that we can move forward like this?”Aghahowa told SuperSport’s Naija Made, weekend.

Also weighing in on the performance of Rohr, another ex-international, Felix Owolabi, expressed resentment over the service of the German coach.

“As far as I am concerned, the man (Gernot Rohr) has simply wasted more than five years of our football development. The fund we wasted in engaging him would have been used to refurbish the Liberty and National stadiums. Under him, the Eagles lack character, discipline and formation of any kind.

“Yes, I agree that we have individual players, but collectively, we do not have a team. To me, the man is not a coach because five years is more than enough to produce a world-class team

“If Rohr is confident of himself as a good coach, he would have looked at our local league for talents, whom he thinks he can groom for a period that he has spent with us. By now, at least he would have produced 10 players.

“But he jettisoned our domestic league players and looked for them in Europe, whereas the destiny of every country’s football lies in its local league. Rohr’s greatest mistake was when he made a pronouncement that he has nothing to do with the local league because the league was nothing to write home about.

“And that was where he shot himself in the foot. The excuse given by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) that it does not have the money to give him if sacked is a flimsy one. To me, the NFF is not ready to sack Rohr and is simply playing on Nigerians’ intelligence. I think we have the power to sack a coach at any time and engage another one.

“Look at the case of the Egyptian coach that was sacked and another one employed almost immediately during the World Cup qualifiers,” Owolabi said, weekend.

However, for some football analysts like Godwin Madu, the Super Eagles, the time is too short to be looking for a Rohr replacement, adding further that with barely three months to the final FIFA World Cup Africa playoffs where Nigeria are seeded in Pot 1 and to likely face countries like Congo DR, Mali, Ghana, Cameroon, Egypt, there is no time left for that kind of adjustment.

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He says what Rohr needs is competent technical crew of the NFF, which, according to him, presently does not exist, as slammed the calibers of persons in that committee as not good enough.

Paul Aigbogun, Salisu Yusuf and Austin Eguavoen are members of the NFF Technical Committee for the national teams.

“You see, in this Gernot Rohr matter, I strongly believe that the man is doing his best just to qualify us for these competitions. There are countries in Africa with better players who did not even get this far. Ivory Coast is the most expensively-assembled team in Africa, but where are they now? You are only as good as what is front of you. And Rohr has demonstrated that he can always beat what is in front of the Super Eagles.

“Yes, his style of play is a bit negative, but then it works, depending on the team he’s playing against. Some countries in Africa don’t even play that so-called good football, but then you have no choice than to also beat them. African football is tough.

“I saw a recent statistics somewhere which indicated that Nigeria is the least scoring team in this qualifiers. That may be true, but then again, we are the least conceding team in the same qualifiers.

“I also understand that the coach was a defender for Germany in his playing days; that may be his weakness in playing adventurous attacking, or fanciful football. So that’s why I said earlier that the NFF should fill that technical committee with competent personnel who will provide Rohr with credible options in terms of style of play.

“For me, the man should be allowed to stay; so as not to regret losing that kind of quality material,” said Madu.

Corroborating Madu’s position, Member of the Nigerian Football Federation Technical Committee, and an ex-international, Victor Ikpeba, said the sacking of Gernot Rohr with less than 48 days to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is not the best way forward.

“It is less than 48 days before our first game against Egypt at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations,” Ikpeba said.

“The speculation about his sack has been intense and I’m really surprised. I know what happened in 2002 and in 2010.

“Rumour of people going to the Sports Ministry and the Presidency calling for Rohr to be sacked.

“Rohr has done the needful qualifying the Eagles for the World Cup playoffs.

“Yes, we were not brilliant against Cape Verde but he has done the needful.

“Why not wait till after the AFCON and take a decision on his future. It will be a disaster if that happens now. If you sack Rohr and employ another coach, if the team fails at the AFCON who takes the blame? What will the new manager change. What changed in 2002 and in 2010. It was a disaster.

“This will happen again if Rohr is sacked now.

“My worry is that we forget history and we should not. Those who sacked the late Amodu Shuaibu twice said he was not good enough. Gernot Rohr has been too soft with the players the NFF can help him.”

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NFF is also facing financial challenges which may hamstring its capacity to make the right decision on the Rohr situation.

The football body owes Rohr a backlog of arrears of unpaid salaries in addition to about two months of unpaid allowances and match bonuses. Furthermore, terminating the appointment of Rohr entails that his severance package must be in place as soon as possible, according to FIFA regulations.

Sacking Rohr without paying his severance package will incur the wrath of FIFA and may earn the country severe sanctions.

Former senator, representing Kaduna Central senatorial district during the 8th Assembly, Shehu Sani believes this aspect of the matter may eventually see the NFF pipe down on any plots to sack the coach.

According to Senator Sani, the NFF cannot sack Rohr due to the staggering $2 million compensation clause included in his contract with the football federation.

Commenting via his verified Twitter handle, Friday, Sani said: “It’s impossible to sack the Super Eagles Coach Rohr even if he underperformed because of the $2million compensation clause foolishly inserted into the contract agreement.

“We are stuck with him.”

More pressure also appear to be falling o the NFF’s shoulders following the charge by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, to the football body not to cause the country to miss out on the World Cup in Qatar, next year.

The Minister had on Thursday, requested an in-depth report on Coach Gernot Rohr’s performance index from the NFF, amid frustrations expressed by Nigerians over the performance of the embattled coach.

Dare who said this during the ministerial press briefing organized by the Presidential Media Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Thursday, had been asked to confirm whether Rohr had been sacked or asked to resign.

While noting that he could not speak much on the matter, Dare assured that the NFF report will be ready by next week, adding that the Super Eagles must qualify for Qatar 2022.

“I want to believe that everything should be done to ensure that the Super Eagles qualify for the World Cup.

“When the FIFA President came visiting President Muhammadu Buhari here, I recall he said, ‘Mr. President, see you in Qatar.’

“In that word, I stand. So I have instructed the NFF to bring an Assessment Report on Coach Rohr,” Dare said.

As it is, if the NFF can find a way round the financial burden of terminating Rohr’s contract, it is assumed the sacking will happen, however, if the football governing body in the country does not find an alternative, it means the Super Eagles will see out the 2022 World Cup playoffs with Rohr still in charge.

And Nigeria qualifies for the event proper in Qatar, Rohr is expected to still be in charge.

“Rohr is living up to the terms of his contract. Nobody told him how to qualify the country for those competitions, they only mandated him to do so. If you are now looking to sack him, on what grounds? Madu asked.

For Rohr, the German has reportedly resigned himself to fate. He has told everyone that the NFF wants him to resign, so as to get around the financial implication of paying him his rather huge severance package, but the tactician wants to stay and see out his agreement with the NFF.

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