It is an open secret that football is a unifying sport in Nigeria as the game brings people with diverse backgrounds, religion, education etc together.
The game is so much loved that emotions are usually up when a darling and beloved team breaks their footballing hearts such as the Super Eagles have done in recent games.
The Eagles have been winless in their last four games and to Nigerians, that is heartbreaking.
Prior to the game in Benin, Nigerians were certain that their beloved national team will return to winning ways and fly high over the Lone Stars of Sierra-Leone.
True to their initial expectation, the Eagles took charge of the game as Alex Iwobi opened scoring at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, before Victor Osimhen doubled Nigeria’s advantage with a one-time finish.
Iwobi grabbed his brace from long range and Samuel Chukuweze dribbled his way past a couple of challenges to slot home.
The visitors made it 4-1 through Kwame Quee and in the final 28 minutes of the game, Al-Hadji Kamara scored a brace and Mustapha Bundu also got on the scoresheet, as Sierra Leone grabbed a shock result.
The result sent shock waves to Nigerians to the point that the Nigeria Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick shed tears.
Pinnick, speaking with the team in their dressing room after the game, said the draw was the worst result under his tenure.
“It’s football, definitely, it’s football, it can go either way, but what happened to us? Were we complacent? Were we just so comfortable that we were leading 4-0 and all of a sudden, the goals started coming in?
“At the end of the day, nobody is going to call your name everybody is the coach and Amaju Pinnick (they’ll call), that is the truth. But unfortunately, he (Gernot Rohr) was not on the pitch, I wasn’t the one on the pitch. I saw the reaction of your captain.
“After they scored the fourth goal, I shed tears for the first time in a long time,” he said while speaking to journalists.
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare was not left as he had a meeting with Pinnick and the players demanding a technical report which will provide a detailed review of the Eagles’ collapse at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin, Edo state.
He further expressed his reservation about the suitability of Gernot Rohr to remain as the Super Eagles coach,
“Nigerians have expressed a collective disappointment with the collapse of the team especially in the second half, giving up a 4-0 lead to a team that is ranked 88 times below our biggest football brand, the Super Eagles.
“I have expressed my disappointment with the result to the team and the Nigeria Football Federation. Like most Nigerians, only a convincing win in Freetown can assuage our feelings and bruised egos. Only a win will be acceptable in Freetown,” observed Dare who deferred comments on the suitability or otherwise of Mr Gernot Rohr as manager of the team.
“The task at the moment is to get the team firmly back on track towards picking one of the group’s two tickets on offer for the 2022 AFCON. A win in Freetown will seal Nigeria’s 19th participation in the African mundial.
“After this, we can now debate Mr Rohr’s suitability as we seek to return Nigeria to the pedestal of African football and one of the beautiful game’s powerhouses in world football,” he said after the Benin game.
Dare has however given the biggest hint yet, that Rohr could be sacked as head coach of the national team. This follows the Super Eagles’ failure to beat Sierra Leone over two games in the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
He tweeted: “The performance of the Super Eagles from their last two matches calls to question the suitability and competences of Technical Adviser, Rohr. Nigerian football deserves better.
The performance of the Super Eagles from their last two matches calls to question the suitability and competences of Technical Adviser, Rohr. Nigerian football deserves better. The needful will be done. Apologies to all football lovers.
— Sunday Dare (@SundayDareSD) November 18, 2020
As the anger raged on, the competency of Rohr was called into question by several stakeholders.
In a chat with 2013 AFCON winner, Juwon Oshaniwa, Rohr is poor tactically and lacks game management.
“It’s not a good result for Super Eagles after going 4-0 up in the opening 30minutes, we should not be drawing against Sierra Lone with a due respect to the Lone Stars, Gernot Rohr should have managed the game properly, we were not supposed to lose the maximum three points on our soil
“The coach should do better as we have all the right players needed to get the right results. I played with Ahmed Musa and I know is a living legend and also Joseph Yobo can bring his wealth of experience to bear,” he told The SportsBay
However, the three-time African champions were then given a lifeline to redeem their battered image during the reverse fixture but that didn’t play out as the Eagles were caged in Freetown with the game ending 0-0.
Before the game, there was a viral video of Kelechi Iheanacho telling Sierra Leone striker Kei Kamara in training in Freetown that the Super Eagles players landed in their country with anger.
Speaking in Pidgin English, Iheanacho said “We dey vex. We vex come. We dey vex.” However, the team were unable to transfer their anger into goals and this made more Nigerians including ex-internationals less than impressed.
A veteran sports journalist, Patrick Omorodion didn’t mince words on the suitability of the coach.
“So it will take this man eternity to build a solid team for Nigeria? His slogan has been that the national team is a work in progress. Keshi, with a lower pay didn’t take this long to win the Nations Cup, yet he was sacked. How long more are we going to allow this ‘carpenter’ continue to ruin our football?, he asked on his Facebook page.
Former Eagles striker, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, labelled Rohr, as one of the worst coaches in Nigeria’s football history.
Aiyegbeni also said that some Super Eagles players are not supposed to be part of the team because they are not good enough.
“The coach is not good enough, let him go. Some of the boys are not good enough. I don’t know where they are bringing them from. Who is inviting these players?
“Our football is getting worse every day. When I was there, people criticized us, but we’re way better than these ones.
“The coach is not good enough, no clue. Gernot Rohr is one of the worst coaches in our history. He is not good enough,” Aiyegbeni told Lagos Talks FM.
Another ex-international, Kanu Nwankwo blamed the 0-0 draw on the pitch which has been described as a potato farm.
“Going by the game [on Tuesday], the Super Eagles didn’t concede any goal, and to me, that’s a sign of improvement.
“To me, that is not a bad result when compared with what happened in Nigeria. They should have won in Freetown, but as we all saw, their pitch was bad, and I’m sure our players were playing with caution to avoid a repeat of what happened in Benin City.
“The fact remains that we have to qualify for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, and I believe that the boys will get the job done,” Kanu told Goal.
Speaking at the end of the tie, Rohr, said he was satisfied by the outcome, adding his team will now work harder to beat Benin Republic in their next game.
He said: “I wanted to win the two games against Sierra Leone to book the AFCON ticket, but it didn’t happen that way. “But I am satisfied with the team’s performance as the Eagles are in a vintage position to be at the AFCON.”
Former Super Eagles player, Eugene Agabe is however blaming the NFF for Super Eagles woes by reappointing Rohr as coach.
“The NFF is to be blamed as they are the one causing problems for Nigerian football. Rohr has spent almost 5 years and I don’t see what he has done to remain in that seat. He has not given us anything that should make remain there.
“Look at Stephen Keshi who spent 31/2 years and we had the Nations Cup. We need to develop our own. I am not close to Emmanuel Amuneke but he has distinguished himself in African football.
“Rohr’s contract at this point should be terminated. With the kind of players we have, we should not be counting points but be leading with 7 points ahead,” he told Trust Sports.
Meanwhile, reports have it that there is an uneasy calm in the leadership of the NFF as some board members were in Kano dancing and wining during the first leg in Benin which was alluded to the poor performance of the team.
NFF technical committee chairman Alhaji Yusuf Fresh in attendance, alongside NFF 1st Vice President, Barrister Seyi Akinwumi and the Chairman Marketing Committee who doubles as NFF 2nd Vice President, Mallam Shehu Dikko alongside a host of others were in Kano for a wedding.
Also, it was said that the senior players are not happy with the game Management of the coach and maybe undermining Rohr..
Despite the unfavourable results, the Super Eagles are now one win away from a place at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, and will back themselves to get it over the line.
However, a trip to Cotonou in March next year is a tricky proposition and failure to win that will see Nigeria in a three-way battle for the AFCON ticket.