A yellow card for Gernot Rohr
If the Super Eagles fail to make it past the group stage in Russia, Gernot Rohr should be sacked right away. In fact, he should return to his country from Russia because he won’t be welcome back here. I am not a fan of foreign coaches for the national team. I have never believed in hiring foreign coaches for our Super Eagles. As a brand crusader, I believe very firmly in building our own brands. And since people and institutions are brands too, it follows that we must build our own human capacity. Our national team is an essential part of our nation’s brand identity. It is a national institution. That is why the team jersey carries the national colours of green and white. Wherever our Super Eagles go, they carry the brand identity of the nation with them. It is therefore an anomaly that the national team coach is a foreigner. It is wrong. Besides, the most successful countries at the World Cup are not those who hire foreigners as their coaches. No country has ever won the World Cup with a foreign coach!
The same way our nation has produced world class footballers, we can produce world class coaches if only we invest in our own people instead of wasting the money on foreign coaches. If we cannot play at the World Cup with foreign players, why must we hire foreign coaches? Are these foreign coaches from Jupiter? Are they not human beings like us? The foreign coaches we hire, believing that they are better (and this isn’t necessarily the case), were developed to be where they are. So why can’t we develop our own?
Stephen Keshi once said he would continue with the Super Eagles despite the frustrations he was facing, because he loved the team and he loved his country. One of the greatest honours for a professional is to play for your country or coach the national team. There is simply no way a foreign coach can love your country as much as you. To that foreign coach, it’s just another job. But to a Nigerian coach, there is much more at stake. Once they fail, the foreign coaches return to their countries. But where would an indigenous coach return to? Some of us African countries engaging the services of foreign coaches are simply short changing our people. It is uncharitable and foolishly irresponsible to engage foreign coaches often to the detriment of our indigenous coaches.
I have heard many armchair analysts and pepper soup pundits, blame our boys for the poor result against Croatia. Meanwhile, the coach has been spared much of the criticism. These same people would roundly condemn the coach of the foreign clubs they support when results are bad. So what is it about our foreign coach that puts him above criticism? The current leadership of Nigeria Football Federation has been commended for the excellent preparation for this tournament, with the usual controversies about players’ allowances now a thing of the past. Support from sponsors has also been overwhelming. This is why expectations are so high at this tournament. Anything short of the second round is a massive failure and the coach must take full responsibility.
Keshi’s Super Eagles won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and got to the Round of 16, at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Yet, to many Nigerians, he was a useless coach and had to be sacked. Despite the fact that Keshi was reportedly the lowest paid coach at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he got to the round of 16. He helped Nigeria become the first African country to win the Africa Cup of Nations and qualify for the World Cup in the same year. Today, Keshi remains the first African coach to successfully take two African nations to the World Cup. Despite his achievements, he was never truly honoured in his own country. Rather he was constantly vilified, condemned and castigated for every shortcoming of the team he coached. How many other Keshis are out there who only need the opportunities and development to thrive and take our national team to greater heights? We must encourage and develop our coaches to achieve far more than Keshi did.
The only justification for putting a foreigner in charge of our national team would be that he performs much better than what we could ever expect from Nigerian coaches. But if Gernot Rohr is unable to get us beyond the second round, which Keshi achieved, then we would be infinitely stupid to keep him on the job. In the history of FIFA World Cup, no country has won the trophy with a foreign coach. When Ghana went to the 2010 World Cup with a Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac, they were drawn in the same group with Serbia. Ghana eventually beat Serbia by one goal to nil. The coach refused to celebrate, out of what he described as respect for his country. There is just no way a foreigner will ‘feel’ your country the same way as you. It’s simply not possible. When your national anthem is played at the World Cup, how would a foreign coach feel?
In spite of our intimidating population and the abundance of football talents, I am yet to hear any President talk of plans to make Nigeria the Giant of African Football. It simply doesn’t occur to our leaders that they can build football academies just as they build schools. They can build training facilities all over the country for coaches. While they always talk about unity, they fail to see how football is the strongest unifying force in Nigeria and indeed the world. When it comes to football, we forget about tribe and religion and feel the passion as one nation. When we talk of investing in football, they will tell you the economy is their priority. Do they know the economic value of football? The FIFA World Cup is one of the world’s most valuable brands, with a brand value estimated at $230 million as at 2017. Meanwhile, revenues from the 2014 World Cup was $4.8 Billion, while expenses was $2.2 Billion. This means FIFA made net earnings of $2.6 Billion from that tournament.
We must realize that development is about the people and not about structures. Our development philosophy must be people centred. Unfortunately, most of our leaders see development more in terms of physical structures. This is why our nation is littered with dilapidated structures. Look at the multi-billion naira Abuja Stadium. It is rotting away. Yet we have millions of youths who want to play football. We also have millions of football loving Nigerians who want to go to the stadium. So what is wrong? Our leadership doesn’t put the people at the centre of development plans. Where are the football institutions that will create the constant activity to make the stadium viable? Where are the clubs and academies? Instead of building institutions we are building structures. And when those structures are not viable they become dilapidated. Surely, we need a change of approach!
While we do not expect Rohr to bring the World Cup Trophy to Nigeria, the least he owes this nation is to surpass anything our local coaches have achieved. Anything short of that means we have been short changed yet again and must fix this Erohr!
• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.
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