Nigeria play host to Tanzania today in an Africa Cup of Nations in a game of very little or no value by way of the outcome but at the same time, it holds some level of importance to Nigerians.
There’s been talk of the game serving as preparation for the World Cup qualifiers and all that, but the majority of the Nigerian fans who will watch the game will probably have just one thing, or should I say one person in mind: Gernot Rohr.
The appointment of the 63-year old German as the Nigeria coach has come with the usual criticism and concerns over his quality, or lack of it, as some would believe.
In all honesty, Rohr isn’t exactly the ‘heavyweight coach’ promised Nigerians by the loquacious NFF president, Amaju Pinnick.
The often-ostentatious Pinnick had bragged last year that the Super Eagles needed a ‘heavyweight coach’ to help then Nigeria coach Sunday Oliseh.
Pinnick had said at the time: “Our coach (Sunday Oliseh) is a very sound coach, but we have to develop a way to score goals and that is why we are looking at some heavyweight coaches to help us in this regard.”
Oliseh resigned two months after Pinnick said that (it wasn’t the reason why he resigned), and it took him SIX months to name a replacement in Rohr, but first had to go through two interim coaches and one substantive coach – Paul Le Guen – that lasted all of 24 hours.
But to be fair, Rohr also isn’t the worst coach Nigeria could have had, as he has some pedigree, at least compared to his predecessor.
He has the advantage of working in Africa before now, and that should be a plus for him and hopefully for the Super Eagles.
In fact, his last job was in Africa, as coach of Burkina Faso, and before that, he had worked with Niger Republic, Gabon and Tunisian club, Etoile Du Sahel.
Speaking to the Vanguard newspaper about the German, Pinnick said: “We have a coach, who will bring the German discipline and French finesse into our team He is very passionate about football. There are a lot of advantages that one gets for having such a coach around.”
But former sole administrator of the then Nigeria Football Association, Amos Adamu disagrees. He said recently: “He does not have the pedigree, I don’t know him. For now, we do not have a coach. He will just damage us and then he will leave.”
So which of the gentlemen will be proved right in the end?
Yes, Rohr has some decent coaching experience, but he hasn’t exactly been a roaring success anywhere he has managed. The best he has achieved in his career was taking French club Bordeaux to the Uefa Cup (now Europa League) final in which they lost to Bayern Munich, but that was in 1996, 20 years ago!
He hasn’t achieved much success in his career since then, but another question to be asked is, if not Rohr, then who?
In all fairness, it is difficult to see Nigeria hiring any coach with a better pedigree than Rohr at the moment.
Considering the financial challenges the Glass House have faced, plus the usual incompetence and ineptitude exhibited by its leadership, it is difficult to see how they can successfully hire a foreign coach with better pedigree outside the circle of the likes of Rohr and Tom Saintfiet.
The one with a better pedigree they tried to hire – Paul Le Guen – turned them down almost immediately after being announced before they ended up with Rohr.
So as much as the former Gabon coach may not be the ideal coach a lot of Nigerians would have desired, the truth is he is what is available and affordable.
If he is to prove a success in Nigeria, it will take time and this much was echoed by Super Eagles defender Elderson Echiejile.
“We still need more time with him as a team to train together and understand him better.”
So when all the factors are considered, it is difficult to see how the NFF could have hired a better coach. What they have gotten now is the coach that suits the present circumstances.