Janet Jackson once eloquently said “what have you done for me lately” and as fans of football, it is effectively how a lot see the game. Nigeria fired manager Gernot Rohr on Monday, just weeks before the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Rohr was Nigeria’s longest serving football manager, taking over the Super Eagles in August 2016. Rohr’s accomplishments included Nigeria qualifying as the first African team for the 2018 World Cup 2018 and finishing third at the 2019 African Cup of Nations. But most importantly, he restored quality to Nigeria.
Before Rohr, Nigeria were in a horrible place. They won the 2013 African Cup of Nations but took a very mediocre side to the 2014 World Cup. After legendary coach Stephen Keshi left, they went through a host of managers; Shuaibu Amodu, Stephen Keshi, back to Shuaibu Amodu, to Sunday Oliseh and then Salisu Yusuf. There was also the case with the Adidas deal, and Nigeria lost their kit provider in 2014 while dealing with a dearth of talent.
Rohr took over a Nigeria squad that did not qualify for back-to-back AFCON tournaments, but he took Nigeria to the 2018 World Cup and finished third in the 2019 AFCON. Nigeria are on pace to qualify for World Cup 2022. In the last five years, he provided hope, stability and consistency.
However, when the results on the pitch and trophy cabinet do not match expectations, someone has to pay. The football and tactics he provided were not up to par in the eyes of many journalists, former players, former federation members. This year was the final straw for most as Nigeria lost to Central African Republic and settled for a draw at home to Cape Verde. Those results coupled with some underwhelming wins, and the writing was on the wall for Rohr.
What is next for Nigeria?
The African Cup of Nations starts in January. On paper this is an extremely talented side, but will Nigeria be one of the favorites as predicted? Augustine Eguavoen, the former captain of the Super Eagles will take over Rohr’s role for AFCON while they look for a permanent replacement.
Nigeria have a tendency to self sabotage, but this is arguably the most talented generation of footballers that has been available. These players are playing in the best leagues in the world. Nigeria called back Odion Ighalo to the frustration of many, especially when there are players like Taiwo Awoniyi, Emmanuel Dennis, and Cyriel Dessers available.
Firing a manager weeks away from a major tournament is not something new to Nigerian football. In fact it is almost tradition. Who knows what firing Rohr does? The grass may not always be greener on the other side. What we do know is that on paper, this Nigeria side is aggressively talented. The right decisions, players, and tactics need to be implemented.
With Nigerian football, there are a lot of unwritten rules and well, if you know, you know. This squad is far too talented to waste the potential. To Gernot Rohr, thank you, the football ended up being drab, but the infusion of diaspora talent and consistency was refreshing.
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