In the five years since Gernot Rohr took over as coach of Nigeria’s national football team, the Super Eagles, the team (both the main and the home-based) has played 57 matches, 47 under Rohr’s management and the others under Nigerian coaches.
The man Rohr took over from, Sunday Oliseh, was in charge of the Super Eagles, which had no delineation between home-based and foreign-based. Case in point, there was a match in which he benched Mikel Obi for Paul Onobi, who was then on the books of Sunshine Stars of Akure.
After that match against Swaziland, a World Cup qualifier, Oliseh said, “I have said in my previous interviews that I don’t care where you play, whether it is at home or abroad. I am glad that you saw it today that Onobi had a good game. I don’t have any player with permanent shirt.”
Rohr appears to have a different mindset.
“Everybody knows, not only in Nigeria, that the big players are in Europe or somewhere else in professional league,” Rohr has stated previously. “We cannot find players in the local league who are better than the other ones. That is the fact.”
And in the past, Rohr has found plausible reasons to distance himself from the home-based team. That has come to a head with the direct confrontation with the sports minister, Sunday Dare, who showed his unhappiness with the biased mind of the Super Eagles manager.
His angst, directed at Rohr, through the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is encapsulated in Rohr’s disdain for players playing in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Dare’s opprobrium is based on the new contract Rohr signed last year. Some points in that contract include: scouting for players from the domestic league for the Eagles because there are quality players in the league and building a “solid” Super Eagles ‘B’ team.
Rohr, piqued by the minister’s rebuke, is in Los Angeles with the home-based team that will face Mexico on Sunday morning, and in Austin Eguavoen’s absence may have to conduct the technical affairs of the team.
Dare added, “I’m an advocate of a blend of home-based and foreign-based players to create a level playing field. They are all talented, so we need to give them an equal chance to compete for the Nigerian jersey. That has been the history and tradition of Nigerian soccer.
“So, the opportunities should be the same. Let them fight for the spots. Whether home or foreign-based, it’s your talent that counts.”
The NPFL players have a unique opportunity on July 3, when they face Mexico at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. But can they do enough to change Rohr’s mind with the 2022 World Cup qualifiers around the corner?
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