Despite the rebuttal by the NFF chairman Amaju Pinnick on stories circulating on Social media and internet platforms that the association has finally pulled the plug on the crisis-ridden tenure of beleaguered coach Gernot Rohr, my sense is that the German tactician remains a dead man walking.
In a statement released after a Nigerian media outlet stated that Gernot Rohr was sacked, Amaju Pinnick said: "we (the NFF) have not taken a decision to sack Gernot Rohr."
Storm clouds of discontent had been swirling long before the Super Eagles' last match against Cape Verde in Lagos. Although the 1:1 outcome qualified Nigeria fot the last round of world cup qualifiers, the stress, tension, anxiety and uncertainty generated during the match only served to add another ring to the ever lengthening chain of dissatisfaction and disenchantment that many fans feel towards the German tactician.
If a match against Cape Verde can raise blood pressure to such perilous levels, what will happen when heavyweights like Cameroon or Ghana come to town? Perhaps all Super Eagles fans will have to be prescribed antidepressant drugs afterwards.
The truth is that the atmosphere around the German tactician at this time is truly noxious and it is impossible to see how he can survive this insufferable pressure. Already, reputable media outlets are reporting that Rohr has been asked to resign voluntarily by his employers: so far he is said to have refused. Rohr has lost the support of a vast majority of fans, and stakeholders, and now the NFF - despite Amaju's statement - clearly see the coach as a liability.
But why is the flood of public discourse sweeping towards the sacking of Gernot Rohr, after all, he has improved on last season hasn't he?
Immediately after leading Nigeria to 3rd place at the 2019 Afcon, many fans including myself, were vociferous in voicing for Rohr to be relieved of his duties upon the expiry of his initial deal. Massive improvements in the fortunes of the Super Eagles (in qualifying for the World Cup from an impossible group, moving up in the Fifa rankings and flying Nigeria's flag at the Afcon after a 5 year absence) were sadly laced with an underwhelming brand of football and painful shortcomings at the World Cup and Afcon. At times, watching Nigeria play makes Beverly Hills look like Ajegunle.
But the NFF elected to renew his contract and in May 2020, Rohr was handed a new 2 year deal with the hope of seeing improvements in his tactics. However results in the 2020-21 season (the first year of his new deal) were woeful! Nigeria only achieved a 25% win ratio across all spectrum (2 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses between October 2020 and July 2021).
No greater vindication (for me and others) need be sought that Rohr's contract should never have been renewed. The red rag to the bull of many Super Eagles fans would be Rohr's comments about his 'young team' and how the team 'played well' despite depressing results. To me, he never seems in tune with the pulse, yearnings and aspirations of Super Eagles fans. His questionable team selections and post match comments in friendly losses to Algeria and Cameroon last season further alienated him from a large swathe of Super Eagles fans and damaged morale even further. They served as a lethal stab to a decaying legacy. If he had been sacked last season, I would have had no issues.
But this 2021/22 season, the German tactician has turned things around massively and the Super Eagles genuinely look like a team on the up. So far, Nigeria has a win ratio of 67% (a 168% improvement from last season!) and an overall positive results ratio of 83% with 4 wins, 1 draw and only 1 loss across 6 matches. This stats holds up admirably against any other national team in world football. Additionally, Nigeria qualified for the Afcon and is still on course for world cup qualification.
So, why so much clamour for the sacking of a coach currently doing fantastically well for Nigeria - a coach who so far has lost just one game all season?
Sadly, the brand of football under Rohr is clunky and stilted. It lacks any romance, fails to hit the right spot and definitely does not leave some of us fans yearning for more. Although the Super Eagles dominated possession in all matches this season, the chances created are largely dominated with wayward passes, overcooked crosses, misdirected shots, goalmouth scramble and predictable and languid build up play. The defence is error prone and our goal post potentially porous.
In short the Super Eagles have been lacklustre even in victories. And any appreciation for Rohr's impressive record this season (and a decent showing against Cape Verde in their last match in my opinion) is holed below the waterline due to the calibre of only opposition he lost to this season and the venue: Central Africa Republic, in Lagos.
Having said all that, I still think it is way too risky to sack Rohr just weeks before the Afcon. Any new coach will have a ready-made excuse for failure at the Afcon if the Super Eagles fail to fly in Cameroon. The new coach will say : 'I had (very) little time to qualify for the tournament'. And Nigeria has precedence in this sort of thing. Late coach Amodu was sacked (twice) in the eve of major tournaments and the Super Eagles suffered for this.
It may not be such a bad idea to at least allow Rohr take the Super Eagles to the Afcon in January and then decide his fate based on the outcome of that tournament. I see a team potentially able to rise to the occasion despite an unattractive brand of football.
My heart says 'sack Rohr now'. My head says 'it's not the most prudent thing to do right now'. It's a conundrum, one in which there are no easy options!
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