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Can Gernot Rohr be solely blamed for Nigeria’s drop in the latest FIFA rankings?

Attached to Rohr’s reign like an inseparable shadow since he took over as Super Eagles coach has been Nigeria’s meteoric rise in the FIFA rankings from being situated in the 60s in 2016 to climbing up the ladder of success as far upwards as the 20’s just September gone. But that rise has now slowed. This time last year, the Super Eagles were 31 in the table. In the latest installment released this month, Nigeria have dropped to 32 in the world. So what is happening? I think there have been a lot of distractions. Focus is the currency of success in football so that once distractions creep in, performance would be adversely affected which would ultimately lead to poor outcomes. Gernot Rohr put pen to paper on a new deal with the NFF in May this year after a long drawn out and protracted negotiation process that played out in the global media more like an acrimonious divorce case. What came out of that seemed like a marriage of convenience with German said to have signed a contract with less favourable terms. Who knows? Latent bad blood from that protracted contract negotiations might still be lurking in the background of Rohr and his employers. Then, to the surprise of many, former captain of the Super Eagles Joseph Yobo was hoisted on Rohr; an appointment that clearly blindsided the German at the time but one he reluctantly accepted.

Media reports had it that Rohr and Yobo didn’t communicate with each other for many weeks. Many observers questioned the wisdom or even intention behind equipping Rohr with the services of Yobo who is an apprentice at best and a novice at worst when it comes to coaching at any level. You want Nigeria to win the Africa Cup of Nations and win Bronze at the world cup and you burden Rohr with the task of training an infant coach (rather than provide him with a coach that he can actually tap knowledge from; a coach that can accelerate, not regress, Nigeria’s march to greatness). Who knows scientifically how Yobo’s appointment may have set the team back by many steps. Now they are talking about either bringing back Salisu Yusuf or prizing Emmanuel Amuneke out of his lucrative contract in Egypt – an administrative about-face that Yobo’s appointment might not have been well thought through at the time. Rumours of unpaid player bonuses going back many months have surfaced recently even as the Super Eagles are yet to have a particular stadium they can call home (one that will give them a psychological advantage over opposition teams).

Take a trip to Latvia, Estonia, Malta or Lithuania and you will see supremely talented young Nigerian footballers wasting away in backwater obscure leagues. The authorities want Gernot Rohr to pick players from Nigeria’s domestic league yet there are better Nigeria n players playing in Cyprus and Latvia compared to the NPFL. The sad reality is, once Rohr caps any NPFL player, they are on the next available flight to either North African or East European leagues where they will fizzle away into oblivion shortly afterwards. A case in point is defender Stephen Eze. Playing for Kano Pillars, Eze earned a call up to the Super Eagles by Rohr in 2018. At the time, I actually felt he could sidestep one of the Oyinbo wall twins. Eze then leveraged his national team invitation to move to Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and now India where he enjoys their Curry as well as play his football. Other NPFL players are eagerly waiting for Rohr’s invitation so they can follow in Eze’s footsteps. My statement is not meant to ridicule our footballers (I wish them all great success). Rather, it is to highlight how disgracefully and incompetently the Nigeria Professional Football League has been managed over the years. And that, they want Rohr or any future Super Eagles manager to work with. Expecting the best legs in Nigeria to come out of the NPFL is expecting Joe Biden to give up his presidential mandate for Donald Trump for the next 4 years in the USA. With much spotlight beamed on Rohr’s handling of the Super Eagles following recent indifferent string of results, many are running the risk of overlooking other factors that have also contributed to the recent Super Eagles slump in productivity. Even if the coach leaves his post but factors damaging Nigeria’s football remains, the outcome will still be the same regardless of which coach that takes over. In 2019, was it Gernot Rohr who managed Nigeria’s Under-17s, the Under-20s and the Super Falcons to failure in their respective world cups? Was it Gernot Rohr that was in charge of the Under-23s and the Falcons that failed to qualify for the Olympics? Or is it Gernot Rohr that has turned NPFL teams to the laughing stock in Africa’s continental competitions? The shortcomings are spread right across our national teams. Yes, Gernot Rohr has his own weaknesses in certain areas but the NFF has weaknesses in almost every area! Nigeria’s backslide in FIFA rankings goes beyond Rohr’s handling of the team. Until other inimical factors are addressed, the same sequence of events will keep re-occurring regardless of who manages the team. The football authorities in Nigeria have to get its act together.

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