The Minister for Sports and Youth Development Sunday Dare was in the news last week after he publicly embarrassed Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr.
Dare blasted Rohr for his treatment of Nigeria’s domestic players when he selects players to represent the national team in games.
These were the Minister’s words: “Rohr’s attitude towards home-based players is unacceptable, it’s negative to our football development & I call on the NFF to call him (Rohr) to order.”
“Rohr needs to shut up and do the work of his contract, he talks too much,” he added.
Ever since he assumed the role of Super Eagles head coach, Rohr has always battled constant criticism for not giving players from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) a chance in the national team.
However, Dare’s latest comments took it to a new level. The minister publicly humiliated the German tactician by telling him to shut up.
It’s important to note that this is not the first time Rohr is receiving a verbal attack from the Sports Minister. Dare once called for Rohr’s sack after Nigeria’s 4-4 draw against Sierra Leone last year.
It’s disgraceful that a national sports minister will go so low and speak in an uncultured manner to an employee, but it’s not a surprise because everything is allowed in Nigeria.
Even if the Sports Minister disagrees with Rohr over NPFL players representation in the squad, there are better ways to differ than humiliating the man publicly.
Besides, Rohr has always been right about local league players. Since he took charge, the former Bordeaux manager has always maintained that Nigeria’s best players are in Europe.
The truth is if the Super Eagles are to have a team with the core of the players playing in the NPFL, then the focus should be on building a sustainable league.
National team invitations should be earned on merit and not because a player plays in the NPFL. Aside from that, the difference between the home-based players and foreign professionals is clear.
While a local league player may have the talent on the same pedestal as the foreign-based players, there’s more to football than just talent.
If the Sports Minister and the NFF really care about the domestic players, they should focus on developing the country’s football from the grassroots level to the league.
This is a league where players are owed a backlog of salaries while there are still cases of hooliganism almost every weekend.
The pitch conditions are poor, and the players are exposed to poor travelling conditions. The coaching methods are archaic, while the quality of play is poor.
Former U23 coach Imama Amapakabo and now Abia Warriors coach once said most players in the domestic league could not do the basics in football, and he’s not wrong.
On Sunday, the home-based players represented the country in the international friendly against the Mexican national team.
What happened was a proper football lesson with the Mexicans emerging 4-0 winners. The Nigerian players failed to put passes together and did not even muster a single shot on target.
The poor display is the reality of matches in the NPFL, but Sunday Dare still wants these same players in the national team set up.
There are not many coaches in the league with a proper coaching license, yet Rohr is the problem because he doesn’t select these players for national team engagements.
The Sports Minister wants more NPFL players in the national team, but these same players can’t wait to leave Nigeria immediately after getting an offer.
And these are not even deals with major European clubs but with clubs in the lowly rated European leagues. It’s even more ironic that when the NFF president Amaju Pinnick visited the team’s camp ahead of the Mexico friendly, he talked about how his dream for these players is for them to play in top European clubs.
“We have plans for the home-based players, and we don’t want you to move to obscure leagues in Europe,” Pinnick said in his address to the team.
“We will soon stop issuing ICT to our top league players going to these clubs. Our dream is to see you play for the top clubs in Europe.”
Pinnick wants these home-based players to move to top European leagues but still want Rohr to build his team around them.
The truth is the NFF president and the Sports minister are only showing faux support as they don’t really care about these players.
In other countries, the national team benefit from its domestic league, but in Nigeria, football authorities want the national team coach to be responsible for the development of the local league, which is ridiculous.
It’s hypocritical of the NFF President and Sports minister to say they want Rohr to include more domestic players in the Super Eagles set-up and still want them to leave the country for top European Leagues.
As stated earlier, Nigeria’s football authorities do not care about NPFL’s players or its development, they are only showing fake activism by barking outrage at Rohr.
However, while it’s unfair that the German keeps getting the stick, he deserves no sympathy because he knew what he was getting into before signing his new deal.
Before Rohr signed a contract extension, there were signs that the NFF President and the Sports Minister did not want him to continue as the Super Eagles coach, given the conditions and drama that surrounded the deal.
In the contract, it was revealed that Rohr would be responsible for the development of local league players, which is a plot to sabotage his work.
However, the former Burkina Faso manager went ahead to sign the new deal. Rohr knew what he was in for, so he should deal with this barrage of criticism.
The 68-year-old should not have signed the new deal, but he went ahead to sign, which shows he’s ready to deal with the consequences.
It’s even more laughable that he’s receiving all these insults despite the fact he’s being owed a backlog of salaries. However, he should dance to the tune because he knew this would happen when he signed the deal.
Rohr’s tenure may still end earlier than scheduled, given he’s likely to leave should the Super Eagles fail to win next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, and that may be the best thing for all parties involved.