Nigeria’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Cameroon next month will be experiencing a twist after the sacking of Super Eagles Manager Gernot Rohr by the Nigeria Football Federation. The development did not come as a surprise because many fans of the game clamoured for this after the lacklustre performances of the Eagles in recent games. After 64 months in the saddle, Rohr failed to provide a pattern for the Eagles while the team lacked consistency in all departments.
The Franco- German coach failed to monitor the Nigeria Professional Football League and so he did not give a chance to the country’s home-based players in the national team just as he also ignored some quality players abroad who deserve to be in the current Eagles fold. After Rohr’s sacking, the NFF appointed Augustine Eguavoen, as the Manager of the Super Eagles on an interim basis. This was decided at a virtual meeting of the NFF Executive Committee that Eguavoen will work with Salisu Yusuf (Chief Coach); Paul Aigbogun (Assistant Coach); Joseph Yobo (Assistant Coach); Dr Terry Eguaoje (Assistant Coach) and Aloysius Agu (Goalkeeper Trainer). Former Nigeria captains Augustine ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and Garba Lawal were also appointed to provide technical and ambassadorial support for the crew.
Eguavoen is not a bad choice for the team because he has won bronze as a coach with the team in the past. He also won gold as a player. However, the number of assistants attached to the team gives cause for concern as this means there will be many conflicting interests in the technical crew. This is a huge burden on Eguavoen. There is no doubt about who is in charge but the NFF created confusion by not allowing Eguavoen to at least pick two people who have similar philosophy with him as his direct assistants. Now, he must work with those appointed by the federation. This is not fair enough.
The time is so short now to see how the technical crew can have understanding to provide a better template for the Eagles tactically, technically and physically. The entire team lacks cohesion and one wonders how these assistants with different mindsets will work together and make Eagles super again. With the quality of players Nigeria have in various leagues abroad, the country should not have problems with AFCON since the Eagles should be competing with the best around the world. The task before Eguavoen and his legion of assistants is huge.
The central defence is shambolic and with Nigeria facing Egypt on January 11 in the country’s first match, the set-up must change. The midfield lacks creativity as Victor Osimhen and other strikers are being forced to track back to get the balls rather than wait for a good pass to convert to goals upfront.
The team also lacks leadership as we had in the past. It is crucial to have two or three players play leadership roles during games to maintain team focus and boost the confidence of younger ones. Overall, the team has to be a balanced bunch to compete at the continental stage and be ready to excel.
These are corrections Eguavoen should make within a short time. No doubt, the burdens on his shoulders are enormous. However, it is expected that the NFF gives Eguavoen and his team the same support given to Rohr. Those in charge now are Nigerians but it does not mean there should not be a term of reference or a contract. Our coaches deserve respect for them to also give their best in the discharge of their duties. The exit of Rohr is an issue that should be evaluated with lessons to be learnt. The huge monthly pay of $45,000 did not reflect in his delivery for the team.
The ministry of sports should probe the severance pay agreed upon by the federation because even now the NFF is still owing Rohr and the body pledged to clear the debt in the next five months. It was learnt that the NFF is still bent on bringing a foreign coach to handle Eagles despite the competence exhibited by some Nigerian coaches like Emmanuel Amuneke and a host of others. Going forward, the NFF should make public the contract of any substantive coach of the Super Eagles. This is not out of place because it has happened before. When the NFF employed Thijs Libregts for the Super Eagles, his contract was made available. It is important to know the details to avoid ambiguity when there is crisis.