By Patrick Omorodion
Dear Mr Rohr, It is four days to the kick-off of the greatest football festival in the World and six days to the opening match between your team and our team, the Super Eagles and I just have to write you on what I feel about you and the team. I must confess I was not particularly excited when you were hired to manage the Super Eagles.
First because we had just seen the exit of the coach, a Nigerian, Sunday Ogochukwu Oliseh who the leadership of our football federation had described as the Pep Guardiola of Africa. Secondly because they also told us that following the exit of Oliseh, they were going to hire a ‘world class’ coach but I didn’t feel you were one.
However, like Clemens Westerhof who came in as an uknown quantity in world football and changed out football, I just believed you should be given time to turn around our fledgling national team, if not to a world beater, at least to one the world would respct and my football crazy Nigerian brothers and sisters would be proud of. It didn’t take much time before Nigerians started hoping that you can be the messiah that will rescue our football from the valley and take it to mountain top. The way you manage the team to quaify for the World Cup, the first African side to so do and beat our dreaded rivals Cameroon and Algeria at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, gave Nigerians hope.
For the first time, Nigerians didn’t permutate on the qualification of their team because from the first game, they knew they were on the right cruise and the World Cup would be theirs to lose. The destiny of the team, for the first time, was in their hands.
However, the successes you recorded may have gotten into your head and that of your players that you thought every team was beatable and therefore lowered your guard as was noticed in the Nations Cup qualifiers against South Africa in Uyo which you lost.
That was the first baptism of fire you had coaching the Super Eagles as the same Nigerians who had hailed your exploits in the World Cup qualifiers lampooned you and for the first time queried your competence. But I thank God you readjusted immediately and started combing the nooks and crannies of the world looking for young and talented Nigerian-born players to beef up your team, especially for the World Cup. Again your efforts paid off when with a blend of the established players and your new discoveries, you handed a Messi-less Argentina team a 4-2 spanking in an international friendly. It was remarkable because your boys had trailed 0-2 before rising up to the occasion to deal Argentine their worst blow from an African team.
The victory over Argentina would not be written without the exploits of one of the young inclusions in the team, Moses Simon. He dazzled not only the Argentines but his compatriots who started asking where the player had been. Unfortunately he is not part of the World Cup because of injury.
From that moment many Nigerians started singing that Nigeria would surprise the world. This even got into your employers in the football federation who set a target of at least a quarter-final for you. At a point you equally joined in the madness when you hinted that you could get as far as the semi final. One is safe to conclude that the confidence you exuded shortly after qualifying for the World Cup and after posting scintillating victories in some friendlies has faded and you are now faced with the reality that you don’t have a strong team,
I say this because of the experiments you have consistently caried out up till the time you released both your World Cup provisional 30-man list and the final 23-man squad. Even before you released the 30-man list, you had alluded to the fact that you were being put under pressure by football agents who want their players included in the World Cup list.
I remember former Super Eagles forward and assistant coach, Daniel Amokachi warning you against allowing football agents to dictate to you. Even the NFF president, Amaju Pinnick joined in the song, disclosing that agents always pressurise the NFF to include their players in team lists. I want to say that from what I have observed from stories making the rounds, I say without mincing words that the agents really had their way, if not totally but sparingly. Otherwise how would you explain the exclusion of the Nwankali brothers, Kelechi and Chidieber, especially Kelechi from your list.
Your surprise at his dsplay during the GOTv Max Cup in Uyo against Atletico Madrid shows that you really didn’t comb Europe well as you claimed or that those you relied on to scout for you didn’t do much or deliberately excluded or ignored him. Now you are in a quandry over who will man your post or who can plug the gaping hole you have observed in your midfield. And it is just six days to your first game. I don’t know what you can do between now and Saturday when you play Croatia.
Just know that the result of that match will decide how far you go in Russia. It will also affect you relationship with the Nigerians who are now thinking twice about your grasp with the tactics and techniques of the game. My prayer for you however, is may the Nigerian spirit that follows the Nigerian athlete never depart from your players. Good luck