[FILES] Nigeria’s Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr looks on during the FIFA 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifying football match between Nigeria and Cape verde at the Surulere Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos on November 16, 2021. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)
Forgive my seeming enragement in this piece.
The matter of Gernot Rohr, the German coach of Nigeria’s national football team, the Super Eagles, must have been finally rested. Most Nigerians are in an unwritten agreement that the man must just go. No football administrator dares to bring that subject back again in any guise or form.
Our collective mumu (stupidity) must stop.
We have been fooled and held down for too long by the colonial mentality that ‘anything White is better’. For too long also, that slavery-mentality has influenced the decisions we took on even the small issue of who to engage as national team coach for Nigeria. Football is a game for God’s sake, it is not going to the moon!
Lately, we even went to the shameful depth of paying a White coach who turns out to be clearly not better or more qualified than our own legion of Nigerians, humongous wages that could have been better deployed to grow football in its entirety in Nigeria through a well-planned intervention in the domestic game. The man did not physically do anything of substance to impact the game in the country, did not develop a single player, did not help a single club or academy, did not win any laurels, did not even stay in the country long enough to pretend to be working.
Yet, without blind-folding Nigerians and the lawyers that must have scrutinized and approved it, the NFF knotted the entire country into a paper-contract that could not be terminated no matter how poorly the man did the job he was hired to do. How did that happen in this 21st Century? It was the worst form of mumu imaginable.
And to imagine that that foolery went on for 6 years in a country that boasts some of the most intelligent and most educated homo sapiens, is simply unbelievable.
Nigerians have to wake up from that nightmarish dream because they are at that point again, faced with circumstances no different or better than those that made the country hire the German coach to start with, discussing how to get another ‘journeyman’ half-baked foreign coach again.
Nigerians are heading back to their immediate ‘vomit’.
Why are we falling for this mumu again?
What is in winning a silverware at the expense of wasting an entire generation of retired ex-football players that have paid their dues, sacrificed their lives serving the country, and are never treated decently and given the opportunity to better themselves, garner experience and succeed as coaches in the world?
There can be no gain without pain.
We can hope to get the respect we deserve until we end this physical and mental enslavement that has crippled us for over 500 years (and still counting). there must be a price to pay.
At the end of the day, this is all race and colour, unfortunately. And we must all wake up to that reality. The Black person must make the needed sacrifices, faltering and falling and getting up again each time to continue the battle that has moved silently from the fields of economics, politics, culture, and so on, and invaded his greatest passion and path to freedom and equality – sport!
This is the final frontier. Sport can be the Black man’s greatest weapon. If we surrender that which can change the world for better, we lose everything.
Hiring a foreign White man after our immediate past experiences may look trivial on the surface, but beneath the surface it is another subtle march towards enslaving a whole generation of deserving Nigerians (from the 1994 set of Eagles) that have earned the right to occupy that space (coaching) in our football structure, but are being denied through this open, unacceptable denigration by those in charge of Nigerian football.
The generation of Nigerian footballers from the 1990s will be wasted again if we do not wake up, shine our eyes to see clearly what lies ahead. That a few were once hired and ‘failed’ cannot be an excuse, because that’s what hiring another foreigner would tantamount to.
The evidence is all around, even in Western capitals, of the capacity of Nigerians to be the best. In virtually all fields of human endeavour, you find them working hard, and the facilities, becoming world leaders.
Even Nigeria’s trained engineers and doctors, products of educational institutions in Nigeria that we all acknowledge are decaying, are being sought after by foreign countries. They are leaving the country in droves for the greener pastures of the West and Middle East because their country would not give them the respect and treatment and facilities they need to excel.
Yet, the great South African leader, one of the most respected men in history, late Nelson Mandela, reminded us before his death:
“The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The Black people of the world need Nigeria to be great, as a source of pride and confidence”.
That’s the burden of responsibility Nigerians, including those in Nigerian football, carry on their shoulder. Are we so blinded by selfish interests and personal gains that we cannot see the damage being done to the psyche of all Black players, particularly our huge army of young Nigerian youths, through helping to fuel the notion of the inferiority that we display in the simple choice that we make of hiring a coach for our national teams?
Once again, football is not rocket science.
That’s why every Nigerian is an ‘expert.’ Football is a simple art form.
What is needed is a good plan to prepare retired superstar players, with all their invaluable experiences and laurels garnered from Europe, to take up their role as ‘teachers’ of the game they have mastered in Europe. In them Nigerian football has the basic ingredients to excel and gain respect in the world.
Nigeria must prepare them to become models of good coaching, to take them through the narrow path of practicing the abundant virtues that underline their own success – a level playing field, hard work, team spirit, endless practice, discipline, decency, not living with the virus of corruption that has eaten deep into the fabric of daily life in our country (how to succeed without embracing it), locking up their superstardom as players in the closet of their rooms, working diligently, shunning arrogance and ostentatious living, embracing the power of humility, and leading young Nigerian football players in clubs and the national teams down the similar path treaded by them to succeed.
That’s the way to go – with patriotic ex-Nigerian players well-prepared by the NFF to teach the art they mastered on the fields and classrooms of Europe to Nigerian kids. The administrators should identify those of them willing to walk down that path and guide them into becoming productive coaches for Nigerian football and future exports to the rest of the world.
But this must be a deliberate plan of action that will start from Nigeria’s own backyard, with Nigerian teams. It can never start from outside.
Finally, the revolution might as well start now, on the eve of AFCON 2022. The country has already lost much ground with Gernot Rohr, and with AFCON so close, the fear of failure should be banished.
Firing Rohr shall generate some consequences, but that small step could become a giant leap for Nigerian football. The decision to sink or swim with a Nigerian coach is one that requires courage by visionary leadership, not those seeking pyrrhic victories and short-term benefits. This is a decision for the long-distance runner with a simple plan, a clear vision and the determination and will to get to the finish line.