By Tunde Young
As you probably know by now, Gernot Rohr has been fired from his position as Super Eagles head coach and replaced by Austin Eguavoen on an interim basis.
The news comes as more of a relief than a shock because rumours of a sack had been flying around for the previous month.
But the question remains: was this the right time for this decision and did the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) do this with Super Eagles’ best interests at heart?
POLITICS OVER FOOTBALL?
The issue here isn’t that Gernot Rohr was fired, his Super Eagles achieved a lot but were notoriously boring to watch and lacked a clear identity.
The problem is firing Gernot Rohr just 28 days before the African Cup of Nations kicks off. This leads us to wonder if this decision had been taken for political reasons rather than football.
NFF president Amaju Pinnick is notorious for grabbing headlines and wanting control of every situation. This means the sacking of Gernot Rohr at this time may well be a power play.
Perhaps Gernot Rohr had proven too obstinate and the NFF preferred to have a more obedient character in charge, Austin Eguavoen certainly does fit the mould.
Anyway, there’s no way to prove that but it’s clear this wasn’t a purely football-driven decision. If it was, the balance of the team would have been prioritized by not sacking the manager just days before a major tournament.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE SUPER EAGLES?
What’s next is that the NFF prefers to hire another foreign coach which isn’t bad but it looks more than likely that Austin Eguavoen will lead Nigeria to the African Cup of Nations.
If Eguavoen remains in charge till AFCON, the first order of business would be to match or do better than Gernot Rohr did the last time. Rohr led Nigeria to a bronze medal in 2019 as did Austin Eguavoen in 2006 in his first stint in charge of the Super Eagles.
But now it’s different, Eguavoen has been thrown into the deep end with little time to prepare and no trust.
He must now try to take Nigeria to the AFCON semi-finals at least with the knowledge of only being a stop-gap solution. That’s not fair to him or the players who would also have to adapt to new tactics within a major tournament.
Eguavoen will reportedly be assisted by Salisu Yusuf, Paul Aigbogun, Joseph Yobo, Terry Eguaoje and Aloysius Agu. Two of those coaches have been involved in scandals and Joseph Yobo is a rookie coach whose certification nobody is sure of yet.
Considering the amount of time the NFF had to plan this sack and the replacement process, this is simply not good enough.