No head coach of the Nigerian national team has used more overseas-born footballer than the German tactician, but he insists it is for the country’s good
Super Eagles gaffer Gernot Rohr believes bringing together players from different football cultures has more benefits than dangers in helping the Super Eagles become a better team.
The Nigerian senior team is presently in camp in Benin City in preparation for an Afcon qualifying game against Sierra Leone on Friday, 13 November.
For the first time in Nigerian football history, a record ten of the 24 players invited for the back-to-back games versus the Leone Stars were born or raised abroad.
Some even played for the youth sides of their countries of birth before switching allegiance to the three-time African champions.
While Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, Hoffenheim’s Kevin Akpoguma, and newbie shot-stopper Sebastian Osigwe are gradually finding their feet in the team.
These players come from England, Germany, Holland, Austria, and Belgium, but Rohr insists only their quality matters when preparing his team list for any international engagement.
“You know when I do my list, I don’t watch where the player is born,” the Super Eagles coach told ESPN.
“I watch only on his quality, his mind, his motivation, and for the interest of our team. It doesn’t matter where he is born. It is only important that they feel like Nigerians.”
Rohr makes history by having the highest number ever of diaspora-born players called up at any one time into the Super Eagles.
And the former Gabon manager is not worried the development could erode the Super Eagles’ own football identity.
“It is the same everywhere,” Rohr argued.
“The identity of the team is not bad because they are coming from different places. Look at teams from Europe; they come from different countries.
“It is like an orchestra in music. It is important to play well together, and the chief of the orchestra is able to make one united team, with all these different cultures and also birthplaces.
“The most important is that they have harmony, and they are going in the same direction.”
Nigeria meet Sierra Leone on Friday at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium on Matchday Three of the Afcon qualifying series.