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Gernot Rohr, Vincent Enyeama, Victor Osimen and Tammy Abraham

By Tony Afejuku
27 September 2019   |   3:55 am
Many things and thoughts have engaged my creative consciousness since Friday last week. And my figural mind, as I am writing this, seems to be in and out of the minds...

Nigerian Coach Gernot Rohr (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Many things and thoughts have engaged my creative consciousness since Friday last week. And my figural mind, as I am writing this, seems to be in and out of the minds of the thoughts to pay attention to now. Should I focus on the UK’s Supreme Court’s outright rejection of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proroguing of his country’s parliament? Does our Supreme Court have the heart and liver to do to our President and his presidency and presidencynologists what the England Supreme Court has just done to the British Prime Minister and his cabinet? I was going to dwell on this mighty subject but decided to prorogue it till another time.

Also, the scintillating interview the vice chancellor of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) gave to The Guardian On Sunday caught my clear and infallible attention. The state and condition of our universities epitomized in Professor Kayode Soremekun’s university was richly rewarding. I will give it a combustible focus in no distant time, in the next one or two weeks, I hope. There are other notable happenings which I am also keeping in abeyance, or, better, which I have kept in abeyance for the sake of the current subject.

Why this subject now?
Nigerian football is one huge subject after my sweetly sentimental football heart. Since Gernot Rohr blemished our Super Eagles after the last world cup in Russia I seriously wondered why the Super Eagles’ coach was not sent packing. Who was this Super Eagles’ coach who was so un-professional to not do the necessary change(s) of his gladiators until the dying minutes when he had already lost the match, the crucial match, against Argentina? Clearly, Gernot Rohr had no business losing that match, but he lost it! What was the Franco-German up to in Russia? I lost confidence completely in the coach after the Nigeria-Argentina show down in Russia. In fact, in the last qualifying match against Algeria in Algeria before the Super Eagles flew to Russia he blundered big time when he allowed a player who was supposed to miss the match on account of valid suspension due him to be numbered among the players who played the match. That same player Abdullahi committed the “infringement” that earned Algeria a 1-1 draw with our Super Eagles. In any case, we were lucky that FIFA merely awarded the match to the Foxes of Algeria with 3-0 score against us rather than outright disqualification of our team for fielding an ineligible player. It was pure football politics in favour of Nigeria. Simply put, favourable football politics took us to the last World Cup in Russia. I am eager to be corrected on this score-line.

In the last Africa Cup of Nations competition in Egypt a few weeks ago, Rohr again blemished and bundled us out of contention for the diadem when his team was beaten with the last kick of the match between Nigeria and Algeria in the semi-final. Mahrez, the skipper of Algeria, took a thunderous free-kick well outside the Super Eagles’ dangerous area. It beat Rohr’s goal-keeper hands-down. As we speak, he has replaced him with another keeper as per his recent list of players for the impending friendly clash between Nigeria and Brazil scheduled for Singapore. To quote Rohr: “I am glad that we have all the Super Eagles regulars back in training and playing for their respective clubs, so I have to play my best players against Brazil” (The Guardian, Tuesday, September, 24, 2019, back page). This quotation suggests or creates the impression that Rohr is seriously identifying with our very best players, who he is very keen to assemble and turn into the real national football team that Nigerians yearn for. But nothing is further from the truth.

Vincent Enyeama is one of our most fabulous goal-tenders ever. He is far better than any of the goal-keepers in and out of the Super Eagles in recent times. He was the skipper of the Super Eagles before the football politics that froze him out of the team came on board. He has, up to date, earned the greatest number of caps and call-ups (above the century mark) to the national team. His political trouble began when, as the skipper of the national team, he spoke out against the Super Eagles playing a match in Kaduna for security reasons. At the material time, long before Rohr became the Super Eagles’ coach, Boko Haram terrorists were Boko Haram terrorists in Kaduna City and its environs. Enyeama thus was already a marked man for truthfully and factually voicing his mind, on behalf of his fellow players, on the security concern in Kaduna and the fear of the anguish that the players would suffer. The excellent goal- keeper could not weave himself out of the minds of the planners of his exit from the team of which he was the real protagonist. The ‘disagreement’ and ‘quarrel’ he had with Sunday Oliseh, the Super Eagles’ coach then, were inauthentic. That he was even kicked out immediately after he returned to the Super Eagles’ camp after burying his mother, whose demise he was still mourning then, spoke volumes that were more than volumes.

Now, when Gernot Rohr became the Super Eagles’ coach he badly wanted Vincent Enyeama in his team as the number one goalie. He was allegedly simply quietly cautioned, and told to look for one elsewhere. Irony predominates in Rohr’s subsequent words which act as “passages” where he decides on the future of Enyeama as the team’s goal-keeper. Recently, he told Enyeama that there is no vacancy for him in the Super Eagles when it was reported that the authentic goal-keeper and out-of-favour protagonist had expressed the wish to return from his forced retirement from his team.

What am I trying to say so far? It is this: Vincent is our best goal-keeper. He is still needed in his team. Rohr should not shut him out. Let him come and compete with other keepers or let other keepers come and compete with him. The powers that be won’t allow this to happen. And Rohr will sooner than later gnash his teeth in agony.

Players and strikers like Victor Osimen’s romance with goals will come to zero. This splendid striker and ruthless finisher will score great goals in vain. When it matters most, his victorious goals, ironically, will bring him and his team defeats upon defeats due to poor goal- keeping errors. This will happen at crucial moments. Then some pundits will root for foreign Nigerians like Tammy Abraham to come and replace them. Even Rohr will dissociate himself from his players, who he will antagonize as he seems now to have antagonized goal-keeper Akpieyi and other ones he has now banished from the Super Eagles. But sooner or later he himself will be banished from the team that he engenders with his questionable football vocabulary, poor selection, inability to read games correctly and other coaching flaws and hiccups.

Well, well, well…. Let me end on this note: the young Tammy Abraham of Chelsea and of England has nothing significant to contribute to our team as number nine. Victor Osimen, Ighalo’s successor, is our number nine that is our real number nine, not Tammy Abraham. But Osimen, I say it again, deserves a great goalie to guarantee his succulent goals succulent victories for our country. Let Tammy Abraham stay back in England that is not his England. Mark these words. Meantime, pundits and scouts should comb everywhere for local talents as Clemens Westerhof, our erstwhile Dutch coach did several years back. Mark these words, I say again.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.