2018 World Cup: Rohr's goal keeping headache

By Daily Sports on January 8, 2018

Views: 1,770

At last the year 2018 is here. It is one year that has a lots in stock for Nigeria. One, it is a year that political activities will hot up ahead of the  2019 general elections. It is also a World Cup year where the country will be competing among the best football nations in the world come June.

Before the World Cup summit, there will be CHAN Championship in Morocco organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for home based players in the continent and Nigeria is participating with  the ambition to win the Cup for the first time, having grabbed bronze the  first time it participated in the tournament. Commonwealth Games will be held in Australia in April, among others. It will be a significant year for Nigeria in all facets.

Nations that will be in various international sporting tournaments like us are already deep in preparations so as to post five star showing in the championships not just as mere participants. Their athletes are known and when the chips are down they will easily be reached and assembled without hassles.

But in Nigeria, it is a different ball game. So far, the body language is lukewarm as the Federal Government is busy as usual passing the bulk on the lingering fuel scarcity it plugged the nation into. The Muhammadu Buhari led APC  government since May 2015 it deceitfully found its way to the seat of power in Abuja, sadly, has only one agenda and that is the PDP past government. Shamefully, it is still trading blame. The Buhari government has, true to type, left the economy in tatters, thereby subjecting the citizenry to untold hardship.

The citizens have been bleeding profusely as many have died of hunger, unemployment and sundry that have reached the sky since the inception of the regime.

That  is the shame of a country that lacks quality leadership. The present government never prepared for governance at all. That is a very sad commentary, to call a spade by its name. I digress.

The truth is that without presenting a preamble to this article, many of my dear readers may not get it right  and arm themselves with cogent reasons why the country may not perform optimally in the above mentioned competitions. The problem is never the athletes; no it is with administration and funding. Sports, though  is not adequately funded by the government but it uses sports to launder its often battered image. However, the little being released are vitally being stolen by the administrators that leave athletes and their coaches in abject penury resulting to athletes competing from disadvantaged positions compared to their counterparts from other countries.

Let me confess that the athletes have been so wonderful to compete and grab honours for the country without much or in most cases with motivation.  It is on record that Nigerian athletes are known for that.

This year won’t be an exception with all indices sharply pointing to such direction. The government of the day is not ready to go out of its way to fund the impending Championships. Unfortunately, this is one part of the world that both corporate and private sector organisations don’t take their rightful places in the sponsorship of sports with the exception of very few.

Given those glaring circumstances therefore, it is obvious where team Nigeria would be when the curtain is drawn. The athletes are doing their beat to shape up. We are all aware that the Super Eagles will be in Russia for the World Cup starting in June. Yes, the team qualified for the summit in near grand style via the services of hard working  technical hand, Gernot Rohr, the Franco Germany handler of the team whose magic wand steered the country to safety despite the group of death toga.

He did all with the optimism of 'I can do it no matter the hurdles on the way'. He did not look at NFF's usual style of finding it extremely difficult to pay salaries as at when due. He concentrated on his job and magically encouraged the players to do same. Both technical crew and the boys worked in tandem and produced results we all applauded. But it is instructive to recall that there was crisis in the goalkeeping department at the very height of the qualifiers. However, Rohr came up even stronger and surmounted the pressure and moved on.

He drafted Ikechukwu Ezenwa a local player, then with FC Ifeanyi Uba who fitted perfectly into the big shoe of goalkeeping in the Super Eagles team.  Rohr single handedly weathered the troubling storm and we picked the sole ticket from the tough group where the Eagles were ranked low by most book makers and analysts. Now, he  has cried loud that he does not have a World Cup goalkeeper in his team. The cry is real. Rohr is not known for cry wolf where there is none. He sees from a distance and rings the alarm bell. He is in dare need of at least one experienced goalkeeper.

His battle cry is that World Cup at the senior level is a battle ground for the mature, best, exposed and the experienced who know their onions. He needs a goalkeeper that would organize his defence line well and instantly call to order, any player that is not marking closely. A goalkeeper that would not be disorganised by merely hearing the name of any star opponent or get defeated before the game starts.

Rohr wants a goalkeeper that would stand his ground when the chips are down and help his team excel. That is not to say he has no confidence in the ones on ground. I understand his feelings when he revealed he has no world Cup keeper. He is on the right part. Let me say hear without any prejudice that the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick aided the amateur coach he once hired to handle a national side like the Eagles, Sunday Oliseh, to force Vincent Enyeama to retire from the national team.  Yes, he did because at that time they saw the veteran goalie as being larger than the Coach. Enyeama's undoing was that he is a principled man and calls a spade a spade. He does not vomit and later goes back to lick it. It has been one of his strong points and methinks that he should be beaconed upon to soft-pedal for the love of the game and fatherland not because of any individual in the NFF because they are naughty.

As veteran of many football battles, this is when his wealth of experience would be most needed - in the 2018 Super Eagles World Cup squad. Yes, the team is mainly peopled with average players. But they are ready to go the whole hog to squeeze water out of stone. The boys are ready to fly without parching unnecessarily. If they are backed by a goalkeeper of Vincent Enyeama's caliber, their confidence will hit the roof.

With a very young side, and a mixture of experienced and the young, Rohr  must be unconditionally supported by all and sundry. The team though with some disadvantages compared to their likes that would be in the World Cup is ready to listen and learn and in such circumstances, it often comes out posting sterling results. Let us put our acts together and give our voice to Enyeama's return to the Eagles.

The good news is that he is being sort after by a French Ligue 1 side Angers, and if it pulls through, he would start serious training and ultimately come back to full fitness. Rohr and other well meaning Nigerians would then be handy to lend their voices to the recall of the former Enyimba International FC safe hands. Rohr is wearing the shoe and only he can tell where it pinches.

There are other goalkeepers to the World Cup that must be trained to have the lion heart and dam the super star players some of these countries would unleash on their opponents including Nigeria. Ezenwa, Akpeyi, Uzoho and lately, Osigwe should be roundly instructed by world class goalkeeper trainer so they will breathe into them, brave hearts that  would enable them stand firmly even if all the eleven players of an opposing team are the Cristiano Rolandos of this World. It is doable and Ezenwa in particular has shown signs of bravery. It is what money can accomplish if we want to turn around the Nigerian squad to Russia 2018 World Cup. The entire team is hungry. It is our collective responsibility to give them unconditional encouragement. Rohr is ready to work for Nigeria and to raise his profile the more. Our chance is now. 

This column must say that it is heartwarming to note the statement credited to Amaju Pinnick that football will be on the moon this year. Great talk you will agree with. However, pundits of the round leather game would want him to start off with the World Cup where the Nigerian side would be in action first against arch rivals, Argentina and others in the group stages and then take it from there. Such attitude and strength the game will enjoy this year according Pinnick would be seen beginning in far away Russia  that is after the round the clock preparations by the team for the championship.

Nigeria has the capacity to build a strong side that will be dreaded by other super power teams. There should be a paradigm shift and Pinnick has date with history. The truth is that he is determined to prove a point because nobody gave him a chance to paddle the canoe of very complex football federation this far. He is all out to use his reach to ensure the Super Eagles prepare to their teeth.

We need it for the lads as we kept praying that Vincent Enyeama will come back into active football then we will start discussing whether he would agree to come back to the team or not. Meanwhile Ezenwa and others must be handed over to an expert in goalkeeping training, they are out there our money can get us one. They are birds in hand. Once they are well instructed and enough confidence instilled in them, then bring on the likes of Messi, Diego Coaster, Rolando, Morata etc each of our goalkeepers will boldly and calmly come face to face with them.

As we continue to identify with the plight of Rohr in the area of goalkeeping for the Super Eagles team in Russia we must not lose sight of the fact that other areas that need fortification for the tournament should be looked into without any favouritism, prejudice and man know man attitude that has been the bane of the game in every World Cup we qualified for. Lets further discussion it as usual on WhatsApp, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Let us keep our fingers crossed. Only the best legs and fittest are good enough for Nigeria at the forthcoming World Cup in Russia.  No more, No less! Keep shooting hard till next week!!

Source Daily Sports

Posted January 8, 2018

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