The Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr, is back in the country after taking a break following a very hectic 2018.
The country’s national football team did well last year despite not meeting the huge expectations of millions at the Russia 2018 World Cup.
The year 2019 is also a crucial one for the Super Eagles as they will be competing at the Africa Cup Nations for the first time since they won the competition in 2013 under the tutelage of late Stephen Keshi.
PREMIUM TIMES caught up with the Super Eagles gaffer in Lagos and the Franco-German speaks on some of his plans. He also speaks on the immediate task before him and his general expectations.
PT: How are you doing?
Rohr: I am fine, thank you. We are at the good beginning of the year and we came to watch some games in Nigeria.
PT: What do you think about the match we just saw between MFM and Rangers?
Rohr: You know I have to see some league games. The league didn’t play for a long time. This is an interesting game because MFM has a good team and the Rangers are playing. It is interesting to see what they are doing. It is their first match in the league. It is interesting to see if they can win the cup also in the league, but it is not easy because I see that MFM has a good team too. We have to see what is happening here and also search for a good new player.
PT: Are you saying there will be NPFL players in the Super Eagles going forward
Rohr: I regretted that for so long a time the league was on break, it was not easy for the players to be fit immediately.
However, what I saw in the game between MFM and Rangers is interesting. I saw also the result of Rangers and Lobi Stars in African club competitions; it is good now that they are playing.
My assistants and I are all the time watching now, Imama Amakapabo and Aloy Agu in different centres watching the players. So if we can see very good players, we are going to give them a chance.
We are also going to look at the U-20 team who will be starting the AFCON next month, I will be there to watch and see if we can get someone better than what we have, we are going to invite him.
PT: Does the violence in the Nigerian league bother you?
Rohr: Yes, violence is a big problem around football. I can only ask all the people to play fairly. Football is such a wonderful game and not the place to make violence. We have to respect not only the rules but also the people, the opponents, the referees and the football. We have a wonderful spirit in our national team, and I think they are giving a good example of fair play.
PT: What is your programme ahead of the African Cup of Nations 2019?
Rohr: We are still watching the players. We have a lot of work to do also with our systems in Europe to see the games -they didn’t stop in England – and then start it early in other countries. Even though it is cold now, they are still playing. So yes, it is a moment to monitor our players to see if they are fit and of course have some news also from our injured players like Tyron who is playing but he can’t start in the training again; also Ahmed Musa who has an injury at the moment. We are following what they are doing.
Our programme all the time is to improve the level of our Super Eagles and to respect what they are doing in the clubs. Everything is going through the clubs, so if they are good enough in the clubs, they have the chance to come and be part of our next selection which will be in the end of March against Seychelles and the second friendly against Egypt.
PT: Do you still intend to keep Mikel as captain, or you just want to leave him on the bench?
Rohr: We are happy that our captain is now in a good club and I hope that he will play very often to find the rhythm again. We will be watching him as we always stay in contact with all our players. Since the world cup, our team did very well. We won nearly all the games, so he has to be very fit, and I think he will work on it, and if he is playing well in the club just like the other players who wish to be with us, then he has a chance to come back. We will be happy to see him back.
PT: How will you approach the games against Seychelles and Egypt in March?
Rohr: I already hope that we can play in good conditions and that we will have a good pitch and preparation. We have to be careful to give the best conditions to the players without any injuries and with the possibility to play our best football. We have a good collective spirit in the team, and I think we have to develop it more and improve our level of quality football. We have quick wingers, we have playmakers, we have good defenders and I also hope that the people who were injured the last time come back. The match against Seychelles is not easy because everybody believes it will be easy and will be won easily. That is dangerous and is a trap sometimes. Moreover, Egypt is one of the best teams in Africa and I think we will have very good conditions in Egypt for the AFCON with good pitches, big stadium, good lights. So we will like to receive them in good conditions and of course improve and test some players if we have the opportunity.