In the heat of mounted pressure on Gernot Rohr to resign from his role as Super Eagles manager, Ripples Nigeria’s Ben Ugbana has compiled a list of words and actions by the Franco-German coach that may have angered Nigerian fans.
Rohr has been at the receiving end of heavy criticisms following what football followers have termed ‘poor performances’ by a supposedly star-studded Nigerian national team.
Critics claim that the coach is incapable of handling a team like the Super Eagles, adding that his over five-years spell of being head of the team has not been fantastic.
On Thursday, rumours were that the 68-year-old had been handed a sack by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), but the football house later denied it, although insider sources say stakeholders are pressuring Rohr to resign.
Sitting Senator and former Abia state governor, Orji Uzor Kalu also penned a lengthy post on social media calling for the replacement of Rohr, whom he had rejected as an option to coach Enyimba of Aba.
But why has Rohr lost favour in the sight of many Nigerian football fans? Listed below might just be the key occasions where the coach drew undue attention to himself.
1. ‘It’d take a miracle for Nigeria to win the World Cup’
Rohr may have said this based on the facts on ground, but the utterance did not go well with fans.
For Nigerians, negative statements like this are okay only when they are not coming from someone that is being paid to do the job. For to whom much is given, much is expected.
The coach, who made the statement in February 2021, gave reasons that include the general organization and preparation for games in Nigeria, as well as the quality of his players, whom he said were plying their trades in ‘small’ clubs.
Recall that on the road to the 2018 World Cup, where Nigeria failed to go past the group stages, NFF president Amaju Pinnick was the most optimistic Nigerian football stakeholder, as he continually said the Super Eagles would win the title.
Yet despite the obvious strong opposition that the team were up against and the seeming impossibility of such a dream, Nigerians were pleased with Pinnick.
Rohr is not being paid huge allowances and bonuses only to tell fans that the things they crave, cannot be achieved.
2. ‘Super Eagles are only 69% ready for Nations Cup’
Rohr was asked the question of readiness in March 2019, just about three months before the kickoff of the Egypt 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, and his response was that his team were only 69% ready.
The manager’s comments during pre- and post-match conferences had often been with a touch of uncertainty, and so fans would naturally not see a 69% readiness score as well-meaning.
Some may argue that the coach was simply being truthful, but the majority of football lovers are actually more interested in a coach whose words and actions reek of high optimism at all times.
3. ‘No shame in losing to Madagascar, Nigeria can still win AFCON’
Emotional intelligence requires that you don’t go to the house of a deceased family and make light of their situation.
But that was technically what Rohr did when he played down Super Eagles’ shock defeat to Madagascar at the 2019 AFCON during a post-match chat with newsmen in June 2019.
The Eagles, who had started their AFCON campaign with two 1-0 victories over Burundi and Guinea, had fallen to a shock 2-0 loss to newbies Madagascar, and Nigerians were not so pleased with it, especially as the result caused the Eagles to finish second place in the group.
Rohr’s comments attracted heavy backlash from fans nationwide.
4. Calling up clubless Ahmed Musa ahead of in-form Paul Onuachu for AFCON qualifiers
World over, football fans are always fired up when sqauds are called up by national team coaches to execute football missions. Nigerian fans are not excluded.
Many times, Rohr’s invitations have attracted criticisms but never has it been as bad as it was in March 2021, when the coach snubbed in-form Onuachu to pick Musa, who at the time had no club.
Onuachu had been spectacular at Genk, scoring 27 goals and making two assists at the time in that season, whereas Musa had been idle since exiting Al-Nassr, yet the latter made Rohr’s 24-man list for AFCON qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho.
Fans called for Rohr’s head! Although the coach later explained that Musa was not a competitive player, just a 24th man not to be fielded. But again, the captain would later play a sub role against Lesotho.
5. ‘NPFL players are not good enough’
Since the arrival of Rohr as Super Eagles manager in 2016, there have been repeated calls for him to include players from the local league for international games.
The argument is that a high percentage of the players he is inviting to the national team are barely Nigerians so to speak, as some of them had never really lived in Nigeria.
Rohr has however insisted that Nigeria’s best players are foreign-based, and has mostly snubbed players from the local leagues whenever he invites players for national assignments.
This has not gone well with a good number of fans, who believe that part of the national team coach’s job is to search out raw talents across the Nigerian society and shape them into world stars.
6. ‘Super Eagles ranking of No.3 in Africa is good progress’
Nigerians are never pleased to hear that they are behind any other country in Africa.
As ‘Giants of Africa’, any position short of first is usually not something to brag about as far as the continent is concerned.
Moreso, having been at first position in Africa and up to fifth in the world in the FIFA ranking circa 1994, Nigerians were not pleased that Rohr could celebrate occupying third spot in Africa in 2019.
To be fair, the manager was actually speaking in comparison to the position of the team before his arrival in 2016.
“When I arrived we were not number three. We were much lower. So, it’s good to see that we are in the right way,” he said.
7. ‘Where are the Okochas & Kanus?’
Rohr once decried the lack of star players in his team, whereas many Nigerians do not believe that the current crop of Super Eagles players are not good enough.
In fact, they believe that with the right coach and the right motivation, the current crop can do better than the past.
Rohr’s complaint about having to manage players that lacked the prowess and charisma of Nigerian players of old, did not go well with a good number of fans.
“We have young players, have a good team with good spirit but we don’t have the stars which we had before. I hope we can go back to that time because now we [only] have young players with future,” he said on Radio in December 2019.
8. The recall of Odion Ighalo ahead of in-form Taiwo Awoniyi for World Cup qualifiers
A section of Nigerian football lovers has continually shown their dislikeness for Ighalo in the national team shirt, especially since his not-so-good outing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Much was expected of the forward at that tournament, but he failed to meet expectations, which unfortunately resulted to fans lashing out death threats to his family.
Ighalo would later retire from the national team after the 2019 AFCON but Rohr continued to seek his return, and finally succeeded in bringing him back ahead of Nigeria’s World Cup qualifiers against Liberia and Cape Verde.
The recall of Ighalo in November 2021 was greeted with anger in some quarters, and even more anger elsewehere as his name on the 23-man squad invited by Rohr forced the disappearance of that of Taiwo Awoniyi, who has been in form at Union Berlin in the German Bundesliga.
Rohr garnered more hatred by this simple act.
Join the conversation
Support Ripples Nigeria, hold up solutions journalism
Balanced, fearless journalism driven by data comes at huge financial costs.
As a media platform, we hold leadership accountable and will not trade the right to press freedom and free speech for a piece of cake.
If you like what we do, and are ready to uphold solutions journalism, kindly donate to the Ripples Nigeria cause.
Your support would help to ensure that citizens and institutions continue to have free access to credible and reliable information for societal development.
INVESTIGATION… LIVES ON THE LINE (IV): Surviving in a dangerous media environment
This investigation is on the unresolved killing of three Nigerian journalists while on assignments between 2019 and 2020. For six...
INVESTIGATION… LIVES ON THE LINE (III): Precious Owolabi was killed covering a protest
This investigation is on the unresolved killing of three Nigerian journalists while on assignments between 2019-2020. For six months, Nigerian...
INVESTIGATION… LIVES ON THE LINE (II): Alex Ogbu was telling a story but became the story
This four-part series investigation is on the unresolved killing of three Nigerian journalists while on assignments between 2019 and 2020....
SPECIAL REPORT… TELECOMS BLACKOUT: Nigeria’s latest tactic against banditry grounds businesses, forcing residents beyond borders
The fight against notorious bandits raining terror and kidnapping students in Northwest Nigeria took a new dimension in September as...
INVESTIGATION: How MDAs violate procurement rules in contract awards
An investigation has uncovered how Nigerian government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have continuously violated procurement rules in awarding contracts,...