Rohr’s Recruitment of ‘German Defence’: Good Thinking, Bad Product!


This is the third in the series of ‘Good thinking, bad product’ analyses on this site. The first was on the Nigeria vs Luxembourg game, and the second was on the board selection process exercise the NFF did about a year ago. The series looks at decisions that seem brilliant at first, but has deeper negative sides,

It is a brilliant idea because it identifies and aims to correct the weak part of the Eagles game. We all want Nigeria to succeed at the Mundial, note: I said the Mundial, not at Russia 2018 – although that’s a good idea too; but attainment of the first should be a long term target, achieved by deliberate planning. The one reason the Eagles may not fly as high as we want, is the defence. That is why Gernot Rohr is looking for Nigerian-German defenders; a solid defence with an excellent goalkeeper opens endless possibilities for the Super Eagles. And Rohr is doing this because…

Well trained defenders are not easy to find in sub-Saharan Africa. And not only sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil had the same problem too. And the reason for this is simple: Brazilians and Africans learn their football on the street, playing with all sorts of objects. The unorthodox items we play with, and the emphasis on scoring, means we develop ‘naturally’ skilled midfielders and forwards. Defending, on the other hand, is an art that is deliberately taught and learnt. Europeans teach it to their players from a young age, North Africans do the same. That is why the best defenders we have had since the likes of Keshi left, are foreigners. Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Ola Aina and lately Tyrone Ebuehi are the latest crop, and Rohr wants more. Good idea…however, there is a huge negative side…

The coach and the NFF will attain their short term ambition of doing well at the World Cup, but it will not be an accurate reflection of Nigeria football. I may quickly add that some fans too, will welcome the idea of a semi-final-place-at-the-World-Cup rush, but Nigeria football will gain little in the long term. For one, nations that ‘import’ players have far better leagues than the NPFL (sad but true). And the move will further diminish any chance of a player of the NPFL making the World Cup team, which should be mandatory, for the growth of our league. The Eagles will have a ‘successful’ campaign, but the players will go back where they came from; and the money paid to clubs that supplied players for teams at the World Cup, will follow them.

Nigeria has also been portrayed as a desperate nation. Tammy Abrahams (almost scornfully) turned Nigeria down. The German born Nigerian Rohr is eyeing, is showing traits of doing the same. Nigeria should not be begging people to play. It is not right.

What Gernot Rohr and the NFF should do, is revive grassroots football. Nigeria has talented sportsmen and women, but many fall through the cracks and go on to do other things, because they did not get the opportunity. Rohr is thinking right, but short-term solutions are long-term disasters in waiting.  

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