It was supposed to show Nigeria’s readiness for the Egypt 2019 African Nations Cup, but Super Eagles’ supporters who thronged the Stephen Keshi Stadium to watch their team against the minnows from Seychelles on Friday, left the arena wondering if they were not expecting too much from the Gernot Rohr-led side. In unison, they said that Nigeria would not make any meaning impact at the continent most important football competition if what they saw on Friday was the best the team’s handlers could offer.
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Since Nigeria defeated Algeria and Cameroon in the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying series, the Super Eagles have not done anything worthy of the hype surrounding the pedigree of Africa’s first country to win an Olympic gold medal. But the fans had always persevered with the handlers believing the squad was a young side that would grow in performance with time. That has not been the case, according to fans at the Stephen Keshi Stadium.
Friday was so bad for the Super Eagles despite the 3-1 win that most of the supporters started querying Rohr’s ability to lead Africa’s biggest team. Nigeria was expected to whitewash the Pirates, who lost 1-8 to Libya earlier in the qualifying series, but the Eagles were barely able to overcome the part-timers from Southern Africa.
Speaking on the state of the Nigerian team, Chike Okolonji, who came from Onitsha to watch the game, advised the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to investigate the team to find out what has stalled their development, saying ‘four years is enough for a coach to build a highly-competitive team.”
According to Okolonji, who runs a football academy in Onitsha, “The Eagles I have seen recently does not represent the quality in Nigerian football. We have never had a team that cannot string passes and hold the ball for 20 seconds.
“I did not recognise the team I saw here today. I believe the coach has not justified the confidence the NFF reposed in him and should be made to sit up.
“If Rohr cannot rise above what I saw here today, then the NFF should tell him to leave.”
Also lamenting the poor state of the senior national team, Ovoke Onoriode, who said he came from Warri to watch the match, said, “Rohr has become so comfortable that he no longer adds any value to the team.
“Since we qualified for the World Cup, I have not seen any improvement in the team. Rather, we see all sorts of funny characters being invited to the Super Eagles and some of the old players have become complacent because they know their positions are secured with the quality players invited to the team.
“Tell me, why should players in division two teams in Europe add to a team that wants to be the best in Africa when we can find some outstanding players in the local league. What is the need inviting players who will never make the bench? It is disheartening to see our best legs in the local league warming the bench when journeymen from obscure leagues are fielded to insult our eyes.”
Onoriode urged the NFF to henceforth scrutinise the list of players submitted by the coaches before sending invitation letters out, adding, “players’ invitation has become another big racket.”
Tony Osagie advocates a drastic shake up of the Super Eagles’ structure if the NFF desired a competitive team that could challenge for the AFCON trophy in Egypt this year.
He said, “Clemens Westerhof and Stephen Keshi were on hands on the job, they built the foundation of their squads with home-based players over time and sprinkled with a handful of quality overseas-based stars.
“Now, we have a coach who spends most of the year in Europe and only comes to Nigeria a few days to a match. He keeps telling us there are no good players in the local league; the local league that produced Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Amokachi and other players, who went on to challenge the best the world could offer in quality stars.
“We must redefine what we want from the coach and make him to work or relieve him of his duties.”