Nigerians love football passionately. Many fans of the game take solace in European clubs and national team football at the detriment of the domestic league. In the past, clubs like Stationery Stores, Rangers, Bendel Insurance, New Nigeria Bank, Shooting Stars, Leventis United, Abiola Babes, Enyimba, BBC Lions, Dolphins, etc made the domestic league and FA Cup interesting.
The fun is now abroad for many fans but national team football still bonds everyone together. The senior national football team is the biggest brand in the country’s sport and anything about the team is a big deal.
The U-17 team have won the World Cup five times to make Nigeria the best in this cadre of world football and the Super Falcons are also the best in Africa winning nine of the 11 African Women’s Nations Cup titles.
However, with just three African Nations Cup titles, the Eagles remain the pride of the nation. Clearly, Eagles have not performed up to expectations with five World Cup appearances in which they are yet to go beyond the second round stage. Current Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr, has been under fire in the past few months for various reasons.
The coach, after 43 games with the Eagles recorded 21 wins, 11 draws and 11 defeats across all competitions. However, with the average record over five years has not translated into developments and major landmark wins in major competitions. The Eagles so far have no pattern as Rohr continues to make wholesale changes in the team that lacks leadership, cohesion and pattern.
At the Russia 2018 World Cup, the deficiencies of the German coach were evident but surprisingly, the NFF went ahead to renew his contract with a monthly salary in the region of $50,000. He took the job with $45,000, it was increased to $55,000 and later reduced but the federation did not make his current pay public. In the recent FIFA window, Nigeria played back-toback games with Sierra Leone and sadly, the six points in two games recorded last year in the opening games of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers have been bungled.
The Eagles only managed two points in the two games against the Leone Stars and so while Senegal, Tunisia and other countries are sure of their tickets to the next AFCON, Nigeria will have to wait till March 2021 to further push for qualification. In the match played at the Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin, Eagles were four goals up and they surrendered the lead to finish 4-4. This is like a defeat because the lesser team came back to level in Nigerian soil. One cannot remember when last Eagles conceded four goals in the country. The players did not perform up to expectations but Rohr also shares in the blame.
It was believed that Eagles have the power to right the wrongs in Freetown but they failed to do so as they only managed a goalless draw. Many issues are affecting the Eagles at the moment. The team lacks leadership on the pitch.
It won’t be a bad idea if the team has one leader in the defence, one in the middle and one upfront but there seems to be none after the exit of Mikel Obi. Current skipper Ahmed Musa lacks leadership qualities and he has no business in the team at the moment. He is there on sentiments and Rohr ‘blindly ‘ included him in the starting line-up for the two ill-fated games.
His tactics are always suspect and his substitutions awful. The bunch of players in the squad now can do better with a very sound coach, not Rohr. He has flooded the team with players with Nigerian origin who are not psychically and mentally good enough to compete with strong African teams. It was not a surprise when the sports minister, Sunday Dare, wrote on his Twitter handle that: “The performance of the Super Eagles from their last two matches calls to question the suitability and competences of Technical Adviser, Rohr. “Nigerian football deserves better. The needful will be done.”
I agree with the minister, Nigerian football deserves better. Domestic league players must be part of the national team when situation becomes normal. There should be six slots for domestic league players while the remaining 18 can come from abroad. Eagles need another manager who will take domestic league seriously and pick players without sentiments. The country cannot continue to be at the mercy of Rohr. Between now and end of the year, NFF should act fast; Rohr has to go. He should just go!