He arrived in August 2016, qualified the country for two major tournaments with a game to spare, finished third at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, but that has not convinced the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) enough to extend Gernot Rohr’s contract.
With just six months left in his current contract, there are strong indications that the 66-year-old’s contract will not be renewed, especially after NFF released that statement warning the former Bordeaux manager of his conduct.
The problem started when Rohr revealed in an interview that the NFF still owe him, but that did not go down well with the country’s football governing body.
In a statement attributed to the Federation’s technical director, Mr Bitrus Bewarang, Rohr’s interview was a breach of contract.
“In as much as we appreciate the work that Mr Rohr has been doing with the Super Eagles in the past 40 months, his recent penchant for breaching provisions of the contract he signed with the NFF and the Code of Conduct for coaches is not good for the relationship.
“The NFF wishes that Mr Rohr continues in the job because of the team he is building for Nigeria which looks promising and has earned some good results since he took charge, but he cannot continue to nonchalantly cause the NFF as a body, and Nigeria as a nation, reputational damage through his utterances and actions,” Bewarang said.
Releasing statement like this when the German tactician has done no wrong shows that the NFF are already looking at possible ways to dismiss the former Burkina Faso manager.
However, that could be disastrous for Nigerian football especially after a year that saw only Rohr stood out among our National team coaches.
Looking at the way our local coaches performed this year, it will be stupidity to fire the only good manager we have just because of ongoing differences between him and NFF.
Results this year have shown that none of our local coaches has what it takes to take over from Rohr. Imama Amakpakabo managed three teams this year but failed with each one.
The former Rangers manager was in charge of the Chan Eagles that failed to qualify for the African Nations Championship and also crashed out of the WAFU Cup. Following his failure, he came out publicly to criticize local players.
Under normal circumstances, he would have been fired, but he was given the chance to lead the Olympic Eagles which had a considerable number of foreign-based players.
However, the U-23 team will not be represented at the Olympic games next year after failing to qualify from their group. The same thing can be said about Paul Aigbogun and Manu Garba who both failed to lead the U-20 team and U-17 team past the second round of their World Cup tournaments respectively.
The current situation with Rohr is similar to that of Thomas Dennerby who left his role as Super Falcons coach due to problems with the NFF.
However, since he left, his replacement, Christopher Danjuma failed to qualify for the team for the 2020 Olympics which means Nigeria will not be represented in the football event of the games due to the incompetence of the NFF.
They are towing that same line with the Super Eagles who are enjoying their best years since Gernot Rohr arrived. Since he arrived, he has overseen 49 matches, winning 29, drawing 11, and losing just nine. Not only that, he qualified the team for the 2018 World Cup from a group that included Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia with a game to spare.
He repeated the same trick in the team’s journey to finishing third at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He has brought stability to the team- which was not the case before his arrival.
Under his management, talented players born outside the country have been convinced to commit their international futures to Nigeria and that has contributed to the team’s success in recent years.
However, despite his impressive work, the NFF are still trying to find a way to get rid of him. Much of the grievances that have been aimed at Rohr is his refusal to play NPFL players and his conservative style of football.
But it is hard to justify such criticism because Rohr’s job is not to develop our local players but to select the best players available for the National team.
Apparently, with the way the NPFL is being run, it is hard to make a case for the local players. Their performances in continental competitions have not helped their case either. So should Rohr invite players from the NPFL just because we want our local players to get exposure?
After all, people clamouring for local players inclusion in Super Eagles squad will still be same group calling for the former Gabon manager’s head when it backfires.
The likes of South Africa, Tunisia and Egypt do not compel their coaches to include local players in their national teams. But the managers still do, and that’s because of the way their leagues are run.
It is now the job of NFF and LMC to make sure the NPFL becomes better, and with that, local players can get more chance in the National team set up.
He has been criticised for his conservative style with many suggesting the team is too talented for him to adopt that style. However, such criticism shows what is wrong with the modern-day football fan.
Why should a manager’s style matter as long as he gets the result? And I find the criticism unfound because Rohr’s Super Eagles are more exciting to watch than when the late Stephen Keshi was in charge.
Although Rohr has some of his faults-such as his over-reliance on some players, he has shown that he’s the best manager available to unearth Nigeria’s next golden generation, so why stop the good work?
Also with the 2021 Nations Cup qualifiers in progress, and the 2022 World Cup qualifiers starting in March, it will be unwise not to renew Rohr’s contract.
2019 has been a disappointing year for Nigeria, but 2020 could be worse unless the NFF acts fast, and sort out Rohr’s contract situation.