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Nigeria legends walk opposing paths on Rohr

What a difference two years makes.

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr is in the middle of contract negotiations with the Nigeria Football Federation for the second time since he took the job in 2016, but this time, the process has been far from the smooth and jolly experience of two years ago.

Back in 2017 and with plenty of contract left in his first deal, the NFF excitedly -- and with next to no prompting -- offered the German a new, improved two-year deal.

The reasons were not farfetched. He had masterminded qualification for the World Cup from a group that looked almost impossible and did it with a game to spare.

He had also got the country in a great position to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations despite an opening day setback. And he did so while raising a team that was one of the youngest on the continent and in the world. The feelgood factor was back in Nigerian football.

No such camaraderie can be found this time.

Instead, the talks have dragged on, stalled, dragged again, and just when it looked like it was about to be resolved, stalled again with stringent conditions tacked on in the small print.

But how did the coach and federation, who seemed like a match made in heaven, find their relationship deteriorating to the point that the coach was left out of the delegation to the 2022 FIFA World Cup draws in Egypt.

It all kicked off after that game against Argentina at the World Cup. There were many who believed that the South Americans were there for the taking. The Super Eagles only needed to avoid defeat to advance to the second round, but with a few minutes to go, conceded a goal and found themselves on the plane back home.

That late defeat stung.

And it led to murmurings about the German's supposed lack off game-management tactics.

To make matters worse, Nigeria's 2019 Afcon title run also ended on the slaughter slab of a late goal just when it seemed the team were on the ascendancy against a very good Algeria side. Once again, Rohr's game management and tactical ability came under scrutiny.

A bronze bronze medal finish failed to assuage raw nerves, with the likes of the legendary Afcon winner Segun Odegbami being particularly eviscerating.

Even a member of parliament took time to weigh in, claiming the coach was "finished" and had nothing to offer.

A second reason for the split between coach and federation came down to issues off the pitch. High level sources at the NFF told ESPN that the German's attitude towards his employers was brash and arrogant, to the point of even disrespect.

However, and as pointed out by ESPN at the time, that clamour for the German to be fired missed the real and very serious issues plaguing the country's football.

Unlike Odegbami, one former captain who has disagreed with the calls to fire Rohr has been Nwankwo Kanu.

The former Arsenal forward told ESPN that firing Rohr would not be the brightest of ideas.

"I don't think we should go for another coach. He is not doing badly. Yes, there is room for improvement but that doesn't mean that he is a bad coach. If you bring a new coach now, definitely we have to start from the beginning, start changing program and tactics and all that," Kanu said.

"If we really wanted to do that, we could have done that since. But as it is now, the boys are gelling well, working very hard under him, we are not doing badly, all the friendly games have been okay, so why should we now change him?

"I think we have to leave him alone, focus on this World Cup qualifiers and try to advance from the group."

So it is a welcome breath of fresh air that the NFF have now decided to offer the coach a new contract, stringent conditions aside.

It is a decision that Victor Ikpeba, like Kanu, a former African Player of the Year winner, supports.

"We're still not the best team in Africa, but we have made some progress under Rohr, who has pushed his youthful team to play at the World Cup and finish third at the Afcon," Ikpeba said.

"We now need to give him a long-term deal so that he can continue the good work he has started."

In any case, the NFF have little choice. There is now less than a month to the first of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, and unless they already have a coach lined up, the country is stuck with Rohr.

His contract expires in June of course, bang in the middle of Afcon qualifiers and with four months until the 2022 World Cup qualifiers begin. They would have to be actively searching for a coach now in order to have one in place by then.

Best listen to Kanu, then.


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