It seems a cacophony reading through or listening to the noise surrounding whether or not Manager Gernot Rohr should stay on. Most of it leaves you a bit confused. I strongly believe that there is an argument to be made on Gernot Rohr’s retention and one to be made on his disengagement.
So essentially, it is the nuance in the arguments that is more important.
Why Gernot Rohr Should Stay On
Nigeria, under Gernot Rohr, has met the minimum expectations for a manager of a top African team to stay on. Such managers are simply expected to develop a team that qualifies for the World Cup and wins or performs well at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Nigeria is certainly one of the top African teams. Never mind that Nigeria’s pedigree pales in comparison to the likes of Egypt, Cameroon, or Ghana that have accomplished more in the continent and/or in global competition involving strictly the full national teams. For each of those countries the expectation is to qualify for the World Cup and then either win the AFCON or perform well at the AFCON (Finish among the Top four). Gernot Rohr has achieved all that for Nigeria.
To claim that the threshold for a Nigerian manager is to win the AFCON or be let go is a bit overboard. Sure, Nigeria has won the AFCON three times previously. However, there is nothing in Nigeria’s football profile that entitles it to win the AFCON at all times. Not only are there other strong African competitors but some of them have arguably a stronger profile and pedigree.
No country wins the AFCON eternally, even those with stronger pedigree than Nigeria. Forget the aberrant three consecutive wins that Egypt achieved a few years ago. That is exactly what it is – aberrant! Comparatively, no country (Germany and Brazil included) wins the World Cup each time it is played or fires the coach when it does not happen.
The minimum expectation for a manager of a top global team is to finish among the top four at the World Cup in order to retain the job. That is why the coaches that took Croatia, England, Belgium, and France to the semi finals of the 2018 World Cup remain managers today.
You can make the same point in terms of performance at the European Nations Cup where managers that took Portugal, Wales, France, and Germany to the semi finals in 2016 continue to remain today, three years later! The only exception is Wales’ Coleman who resigned in 2017 to take up a position with Sunderland.
Worse still is to argue that because the coach did not use a certain player that it is time for the coach to be let go. The selection of a particular player is inherently a subjective decision of a coach and should remain so. No fan, journalist, or administrator should be dabbling on selecting particular players for a national team. That is narrowly and deeply the task solely for the Manager.
Why Gernot Rohr Should be Let Go
But the reality is that there is a case to be made for dismissing Gernot Rohr even if he had won the AFCON. In this case, it is not just the result of a match or the trophies in the cupboard. It has little to do with such number counting. However, it has everything to do with the type of team Nigeria wishes to project.
Nigeria must make it clear, through its federation, on whether its aspiration and its brand is to be an offensive team, a team that plays beautiful football. In the past, Nigeria has projected that image. It is an image that has now percolated all over the world and has been a global expectation for all Nigeria’s teams, from the youth to women and to the full men national team.
It is the type of champagne football that birthed the likes of Augustine Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Daniel Amokachi, and harken all the way back to Haruna Ilerika, Henry Nwosu, and Segun Odegbami. The federation must make it clear whether that is now the aspiration for the Super Eagles. It must be understood that playing such football is not always a successful approach. That much should be stated and acknowledged.
Nonetheless, if it is Nigeria’s aspiration then Manager Gernot Rohr must be let go. Rohr is clearly not the man to project such a team. His antecedents going back to his previous positions and his tenure in Nigeria shows that the Leopard will never change its spots.
Rohr is a defensive minded coach and one that relies on counter attacking football. The fact that Nigeria was dominated on possession football throughout the 2019 AFCON only underlines that very fact.
It is the subtle differences in facts and justifications that should make it clear whether Manager Gernot Rohr should stay on or go in the coming weeks or months. The fact that the NFF President Amaju Pinnick has announced that Rohr stays until the expiration of his contract, few months from now, should not be defined as the final statement on this issue.
It should be an issue that remains on the table and vigorously debated on the merits of key points while understanding the subtle issues that matter. A different decision can be still taken in the coming weeks or simply at the expiration of Gernot Rohr’s contract.