Why the Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr Should NOT be Sacked
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Nigerians are calling for the sacking of Gernot Rohr but is this a wise move, considering the Eagles are on the brink of qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations, 2022? Rohr deserves to continue in his job despite the uninspiring doubleheader draws against Sierra Leone.
There is no denying the disappointment Nigerians felt after the Super Eagles managed just 2 points out of a possible 6, in their recent double header with Sierra Leone in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. What many found most painful, was the team inexplicably surrendering 4 goals lead on home soil in the first leg of this encounter. The assumption is that Nigeria has a much more superior team, and therefore should not really be challenged by a team that sits 88 spots below them in the FIFA world rankings. For this, many Nigerians believe it’s time to thank Coach Gernot Rohr for his service to the nation, and escort him out of the building.
This my friends, would be a big mistake, in my humble opinion, and I respectfully ask for your patience as I share my views on why the Super Eagles should not part ways with Coach Rohr.
THE PITCH WAS NO EXCUSE IN SIERRA LEONE ... BENIN WAS NOT MUCH BETTER
But before I get to the coach, let me address the playing field at the Siaka Stevens stadium in Sierra Leone. Many Nigerians are still complaining about the inferior conditions of the playing surface in Sierra Leone.
With all due respect, let us leave this playing pitch matter. Many of us are talking as if that pasture of a field in Benin City, Nigeria, was Old Trafford in Manchester or Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in London. Let's keep it real. That's far from it. The team from Sierra Leone had to play on the same surface and we didn’t hear them offer this as an excuse. In fact, the Sierra Leoneans seemed ready to play on the street if necessary, if that is what it took to get points from this match. And of course, they did succeed in getting points off of this match. The excuse of the poor pitch isn't aging well at all, and simply won’t cut it, considering these conditions were the same for both teams.
NIGERIA REMAINS THE TOP TEAM IN GROUP L. THEREFORE SACK THE COACH?
Now to the Coach. The mandate for Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr, as I understand it in the short term, is to qualify the team for the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup, both in 2022 respectively. The last time I checked, the Super Eagles were and ARE still on top of their qualifying Group L, with 8 points, ahead of Benin Republic, Sierra Leone and Lesotho. In other words, Rohr has this team in first place, and yet many Nigerians are calling for him to be put on trial. I would imagine football, like anything else in life, has obstacles and challenges along the way to fulfilling the mission. Could it be, that some of us expected the Super Eagles to cruise to easy qualification? Perhaps complacency may have led to underestimating the grit and fortitude of a very determined Sierra Leone team that refused to quit, even after being down by 4 goals on an away field. Our neighbors to the west played with the heart of a lion, and they deserve credit for keeping their slim qualification hopes alive, and I believe we should accord them the respect they so richly earned. They were not intimidated by the so called "Giant of Africa", as they fought Goliath to a gallant draw.
For those of our brothers and sisters calling for the termination of our Coach Rohr, who would you replace him with at this late stage of the game, with only 3 months before the final two qualification matches? Can the Super Eagles afford to start over with a new coach, a new program and a new scheme, even when all you need is a single win or two draws in the remaining matches, to still qualify for the AFCON? Why take this unnecessary risk of disrupting the football program at this time, pandemic and all, when you have a coach with a history of qualifying Nigeria for everything when it matters? Truth be told, the Super Eagles haven't even lost a game during this AFCON qualification campaign, and yet you would think the team has been eliminated from contention. Can you imagine if Rohr had lost any of these two matches?
ROHR IS NOT PERFECT, BUT HE HAS MOSTLY DELIVERED
Just to be clear, I am not saying Gernot Rohr is Sir Alex Ferguson. I don’t think anyone is making that comparison. I am, however, stating clearly that he has earned the right to continue based on his track record of meeting his mandate. Yes, there has been heartbreak on this journey to qualification, but show me any relationship or marriage, where there isn't? This man qualified Nigeria for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with one game to spare, which crushed the sales of calculators in Nigeria. Then once at the World Cup, he beat an Iceland team that finished in the Final Four of the European Championships just two years earlier.
Let us also not forget that Nigeria was only 4 minutes away from advancing to the knockout phase of that 2018 World Cup against South American champions, Argentina. Then just a year ago, it took an ABSOLUTE rocket launched from the left foot of Algeria's Riyad Mahrez to send Nigeria home with a bronze medal from the Africa Cup of Nations, as they pushed eventual winners Algeria to the brink in the semifinals. Where were these same people when the coach was enjoying success in elevating the country's sporting profile?
SUPPORT THE COACH TO QUALIFY FOR AFCON - RE-EVALUATE THE PROGRAM AFTER
So, if the mandate for Coach Rohr is to never lose a match or never draw a match on the way to reaching qualification for various tournaments, then he should be sacked. But if there is a recognition that in football, anything can happen on any given day, then perhaps we need to re-think this. Just ask Ghana, which was shocked by Sudan on Tuesday and actually dropped all its points. Nigeria did not. The Super Eagles are in a VERY strong position to qualify for AFCON, and our coach has been steady, though unspectacular at times.
And while I agree there is always room for improvement, I also cannot justify removing a coach who has his team in first place and on the verge of qualification.
Asking Nigerians to erase the pain of conceding 4 goals on home soil for the first time in 20 years, is a bridge too far. But so too is blowing up our football program because of a 4 day stretch of tough football that netted 2 points. I am of the opinion we should stay the course, rally around our team and our coach to qualification, and then discuss the future of the program afterwards. These Super Eagles are that team and Gernot Rohr is that Coach.
Do you agree or disagree? Please feel free to share your comments below.