As the World Cup slowly but surely approaches, we look at the place of coach Rohr in Nigeiran football history thus far.
On the 7th of October 2017, Super Eagles fans at home and abroad were thrown into scenes of jubilation as the performance of their darling team at Godswill Stadium in Uyo, Nigeria ensured qualification to another world cup finals.
On the day, the manner of the victory was un-pretty, but who cares, a win is a win any day. Also, the 1:0 victory against a young, hungry, resurgent and determined Chipolopolo of Zambia was no easy feat. Cast you mind back to just 1 month before and the same Zambia recorded back to back victories against former world cup second rounders Algeria - their confidence was high going to that match against Nigeria.
It's also no news that the Super Eagles went through their entire world cup qualifying campaign undefeated in a group of fear that included 2 teams that have qualified for the knock out stages of the world cup in the past and 1 team that defeated mighty Italy 4:0 at the 1988 summer Olympics.
At the centre of this achievement is the technical adviser of the Super Eagles of Nigeria Gernot Rohr. Those who initially criticized and vilified the NFF for sticking to their guns and hiring a foreign coach may be having second thoughts now.
What is a bit premature however is the comparison being made in some social media platforms and online magazines between Rohr and past (some late) great Nigerian coaches/technical advisers.
However, now that the flame of the debate has been ignited, let me attempt to put things in perspective.
For any Super Eagles team over a period of time, say 4 years, to be regarded as having being coached successfully, 5 condition needs to be met.
- Qualification to African Cup of Nations tournament(s).
- As a minimum, to reach the semi finals of the African Cup of Nations and win a bronze medal (at worst).
- At best, coach the team to lift an African Cup of Nations trophy.
- Qualify for the FIFA world Cup.
- And as a minimum, reach the second round of the world cup.
Lately, coaches of the national team are also expected to contribute or lead (as in the case of the late great Stephen Keshi and Sunday Oliseh) the home-based Super Eagles to qualification and success in CHAN (African Cup of Nations for home-based players only). Mr Keshi excelled in this.
If we were to go back in time to the very beginning, this article will be too long and become boring. For this reason, I will start from 1990.
Between 1990 and 1994, technical adviser Clemens Westerhof met all 5 conditions above, achieving a sort of hat-trick of bronze, silver and gold (not in that order) in the African Cup of Nations. History has it that he coached Nigeria to our first ever FIFA world cup finals in USA '94, setting a minimum standard of at least reaching the second round of the competition - a standard that has never been surpassed by any coach/technical adviser to come after.
Between 1997 and 2000, the various Super Eagles teams were coached to their performances meeting the 5 conditions above. Unlike the Westerhof era, they were coached by different coaches at each point.
Phillipe Troussier (1997), qualified Nigeria for the France '98 FIFA world cup. Bora Milutinovic (1997 to 1998) took the team to the world cup and reached the second round. And Jo Bonfrere (1999 to 2001) prepared the team for the 2000 African Cup of Nations where they came second in controversial circumstances.
Between 2011 and 2014, coach Stephen Keshi achieved a lot. His assembly of home and foreign based Eagles qualified for and lifted the 2013 African Cup of Nations. They also qualified for and reached the second round of the 2014 FIFA world Cup. He set a record by qualifying Nigeria for CHAN (African Cup of Nations for home based players only) for the first time after several attempts and winning bronze in the same tournament in 2014.
Now, going back to Rohr, yes, fans and relevant stakeholders are over the moon about our world cup qualification and the manner of clinching it, but with all due respect, that is by no means unique. Westerhof, Troussier, Late Amodu Shuaibu (twice and undefeated) and Mr Stephen Keshi (also of blessed memory) all qualified Nigeria for the various FIFA world cup tournaments in style.
Going by the 5 conditions mentioned several paragraphs above, it is clear that Rohr is not there yet. If however what we have seen thus far is anything to go by, then I guess coach Rohr is making a statement to all and sundry that "you ain't seen nothing yet!"