Giving opportunities to players plying their trade on the domestic scene has been on a steady decline in the past years
By Alexander Johnson Adejoh
The sudden news of Gernot Rohr being sacked as Super Eagles coach a few days before the commencement of the AFCON tournament in Cameroon could be the biggest news from the Nigeria Football Federation this year.
Rohr was sacked on Sunday, December 12, with former Nigeria international, Austin Eguavoen, replacing the Franco-German, albeit on an interim basis.
Although the handwriting was on the wall that Rohr would be leaving sooner or later, many felt he would still be allowed to lead the Eagles to Cameroon before a final decision would be made.
Rohr, the longest-serving coach in Nigerian football history, was hired in 2016 after the Eagles failed to qualify for consecutive editions of the Africa Cup of Nations (2015 and 2017).
He was able to qualify Nigeria for both the World Cup and AFCON in 2018 and 2019 respectively. As it stands, Eguavoen might be in charge of the Eagles in Cameroon; making him the first interim coach to lead Nigeria to a major competition. However, the new technical adviser may not have enough time to choose his best players.
Reshuffling will occur while some players will fall out of favour with the Nigerian coach. This is a new dispensation for the Eagles after 10years of many ups and downs.
Eagles in the last 10years (2011-2021)
Involvement of home-based players:
Giving opportunities to players plying their trade on the domestic scene has been on a steady decline in the past years with the Keshi era still undoubtedly the golden era for home-based players.
The Keshi era
The squad under the late Stephen Keshi or the Big Boss as some called him had touches of home-based players.
According to stats, from 2011 till 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Super Eagles had a minimum of 15 per cent local players’ inclusion.
During the World Cup Qualifiers from 2011-2013, about nine local players played under late Stephen Keshi.
The 2013 AFCON had the brightness of home-based players with sterling performances from the duo of Godfrey Oboboana and Sunday Mba.
The 2013 team featured six home-based players of the 23-man squad at AFCON which amounted to 26 per cent. However, only three players (Godfrey Oboboana, Sunday Mba and Ejike Uzoenyi) had playing time at the competition.
Football lovers will never forget Mba’s crucial goals against Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso in the quarterfinal and final respectively.
The 2014 World Cup also had the inclusion of four home-based players amounting to 17 per cent. However, only two players (Ejike Uzoenyi and Reuben Gabriel)played for Eagles.
But the figures have been reducing since then.
After the 2014 World Cup, at least six home-based players, (Paul Onobi, Ezenwa Ikechukwu, Bature Godwin Obaje, Adekunle Adeleke, Chima Akas and Anayo Iwuala) have had the opportunity to feature in games for the Super Eagles in both World Cup and AFCON Qualifiers under coaches like Sunday Oliseh and Gernot Rohr.
World Cup and AFCON qualifying games under Sunday Oliseh
CAF Qualification 9/May/2015
Tanzania vs Nigeria
Name Minutes Played
Solomon Kwambe 90
Ikechukwu Ezenwa Bench
World cup Qualification 13/November/ 2015 and 17/November/2015
Swaziland vs Nigeria
Name Minutes played
Paul Onobi Bench
Orji Okagbue Bench
Austin Oboroakpo Bench
Chima Akas Bench
Ikechukwu Ezenwa Bench
Nigeria vs Swaziland
Name Minutes played
Paul Onobi 90
Orji Okagbue Bench
Austin Oboroakpo 90
Chima Akas 86
Ikechukwu Ezenwa Bench
The World Cup and AFCON under Gernot Rohr in 2018 and 2019 saw just one home-based player, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, feature in one game in the World qualifiers. But he did not record any minutes during the period Nigeria lasted in the competitions proper.
AFCON and World Cup Qualifiers in 2020 and 2021 saw three home based players feature (John Noble, Anayo Iwuala and Adekunle Adeleke).
The percentages of involvement of local players in qualifiers and major tournaments under Gernot Rohr from 2017-2021 are 3 per cent, 4.3 per cent, 4.3 per cent, 5.5 per cent and 13.5 per cent.
A sports snalyst and media officer for one of Nigeria’s age-grade teams, Andrew Randa, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES explained why there is an obvious lack of home-based players in national team duties.
He said: ‘First of all I think it’s a two-way thing, Keshi played in the league in Nigeria and he understands the terrain.
Rohr isn’t a Nigerian and doesn’t understand the terrain and didn’t play for Super Eagles.’ Mr Randa also spoke about lack of patience and finance as major problems to develop home-based players.
He said: “The second part is I’m not sure we have the kind of patience that we had between 2011 and 2013 for Keshi to be able to get hold of his home-based players in camp and trying to get players out of the home-based guys.
‘I’m not sure the NFF have that type of money for periodic camping or even the patience from the NFF and Nigerians in general.
Because Keshi was one of our own, he was allowed to do certain things. He even had a part in certain things that he did, unfortunately for a foreign coach I’m not sure we are going to have that kind of patience with him.”
Could it be our League?
In his reaction, sports journalist Paul Bassey said the development of Football in Nigeria is unstable.
According to the Akwa United chairman, beyond football, a lot is not right in many other sectors in Nigeria.
‘Do we have problem with our economy? Do we have problem with our politics?
Is there any stability?
‘It is a systemic problem. When our country is not well run, how do you expect football to be perfect?
‘We are playing football on substandard pitches; referees are not up to standard on levels of development. Players are fatigued.”
‘The environment can’t make your football perfect so who are you blaming?
‘How many coaches have the necessary qualifications in terms of improvement?”
The Akwa United boss asked while speaking with Newsmen.
Performances of Eagles in Major competitions in the last 10years
The Super Eagles have been able to participate in two editions of the World Cup and AFCON from 2011-2021 under two Coaches, Stephen Keshi and Gernot Rohr.
Keshi won AFCON in 2013 and reached the knockout phase of the World Cup in 2014.
The Super Eagles winning ratio in both competitions (AFCON and World cup) were 65 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
The 2018 and 2019 World Cup and AFCON under Gernot Rohr had winning ratios of 33.3 per cent and 71.4 per cent respectively.
The Super Eagles failed to reach the final of AFCON in 2019 after Riyad Mahrez’s late free-kick condemned Nigeria to third place with Tunisia.
According to Mr Randa on the Eagles’ performances in major competitions in thelast 10 years, only Clemence Westerhof comes close to the exploits of the late Keshi.
‘But trophy wise, Keshi was better and games wise Rohr has been better than any other in Nigeria he has spent the same amount of time he has spent.
The winning ratio is better, only Westerhof came close to him in that aspect. If we are talking of trophy I will take Keshi, at the end of the day we didn’t qualify for the next Nation’s Cup,’ Randa told Newsmen.
He continued: ‘Rohr has managed to qualify for two Nation’s Cup and with the World Cup and a game to spare, didn’t make the second round of the World Cup like Keshi did.
‘Keshi made the second round in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil so we can give it to Keshi.
‘Looking at the win ratio, even though, Rohr has done more. He has the best winning ratio for a Nigerian coach.’
What should we expect in AFCON?
On what to expect in Cameroon, Mr Randa said: ‘I have lowered my expectations.
I’m not expecting anything much, if they win I will be very surprised. I think they can qualify from the group but the quarter-finals from there will be a little bit hard.
‘It is a 24-team round now, so there will be a second round. Maybe they might be through to the second round I don’t know.’
The sports analyst also added that: ‘It is a transition period for the team, due to the crisis; a third-place finish might be fine. It is going to be a huge task for the players to do anything appreciable in Cameroon. Personally, I have lowered my
expectations. I want them to do well based on the reality on the ground, and this is a competition they will just go in trying to be a transition period as we prepare to head to the world cup.
‘I will be happy if they win the trophy but, it is a bit too far.’
On his part, former Nigeria goalkeeper, Ike Shorunmu, while speaking to Newsmen, said the current team can not be compared to the AFCON 2013 winners.
He added that most foreign players failed to drop the foreign mentality to adapt to that of Africa during African competitions.
‘Don’t go too far, you can’t compare the performance of 2013 with the current team. When you are playing African football, you have to behave like an African.
‘I have tasted both Africa and Europe and what I used to tell our players when I was still with the late Stephen Keshi is that, when you’re coming from Europe, drop about 85 per cent of the European mentality and bring only 15 per cent to join the African mentality. The African tournament is totally different.’