Nigeria: The Sacking of Gernot Rohr

Rohr’s inability to enforce discipline has made his stay indefensible

The termination of the employment of Gernot Rohr as the Super Eagles coach on the eve of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations presages a far-reaching implication for the national team’s quest to win its fourth continental showpiece at the biennial tournament billed for Cameroon in January, 2022. The 68-year-old German was relieved of his role by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in what was described as a mutual agreement, following a spate of tepid results in the lead to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, said the decision to fire Rohr and appoint Austin Eguavoen as interim coach was a proactive step to avert a looming disaster. Indeed, given the uninspiring brand of football that has been the synonym of the Super Eagles in recent encounters, few were surprised by the decision. The team was beaten at home by Central African Republic (CAR) and obviously lacked enterprise and guile in the goalless draw against Cape Verde also in Lagos in the African World final group qualifying match. Besides, Rohr’s inability to enforce discipline among players had made his continued stay on the job untenable.

However, the appointment of an interim coach few days before the start of a major tournament has only reinforced the traditional Nigerian script of acting on impulse rather than being guided by logic and long-term planning. That apart, the timing for such decision is wrong and it is akin to a gamble that may backfire and set our Africa Cup of Nations campaign up in a pall of smoke. It remains to be seen at this stage how an interim or a substantive coach for that matter, will influence team tactics when Rohr had for six years called the shot and had already submitted the provisional team list for the Africa Cup of Nations campaign to the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Eguavoen, who will draw support from a technical back up staff comprising Salisu Yusuf, Joseph Yobo, Paul Aigbogun, Alloy Agu and Terry Eguaoje, is hugely experienced being a former international player, a former national coach and until his appointment, the Technical Director of the NFF. But we should not expect him to suddenly become an overnight magician given the short time frame he has to prepare for the AfCON tournament last won by Nigeria in 2013. Regardless of the outcome of the competition being hosted by Cameroon, Eguavoen should be allowed to prepare the team for the crucial World Cup qualification.

Meanwhile, liability for the atmosphere of toxicity and uncertainty that is hovering around our Nations Cup campaign should be placed on the NFF and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. We find it hard to understand why both dithered until the 11th hour before deciding to sack Rohr as the chief coach. That indecision has already put in jeopardy the AfCON campaign where Nigeria will feature in Group D against Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau.