The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has witnessed so many crises in the past years and in most cases, the beautiful game suffers for it. The imbroglio between NFF President Amaju Pinnick and a Jos-based politician, Chris Giwa, was a big setback to the game. We recall that rather than focus on the development of the game at the time, the federation was busy and concentrated on the leadership battle with Giwa. It is on record that the Eagles failed to book a ticket to the African Cup of Nations three times within five years not due to lack of talents but largely because of administrative problems in the federation between 2013 and 2017.
We also recall vividly that the long list of court cases involving the top chieftains of the football body have been a big setback to the progress of the game in the country.
And so the ongoing feud between the NFF and the Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, is sad and rather unfortunate. This is coming at a time the senior national team seems to be finding its rhythm at all fronts. The Eagles were held to a 2-2 draw by Ukraine in an international friendly away while highly rated Brazil, also forced Eagles to a 1-1 draw in another Grade A friendly.
And in the qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria defeated Benin 2-1 in Uyo and followed up with an emphatic 4-2 away win against Lesotho. Young players like Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, Joe Aribo, Samuel Kalu and Alex Iwobi have shown so much promise to give hope of a better tomorrow for the team.
We believe another golden generation is in the making as most of the players in the current team could still be together for another eight years to prosecute two World Cups and four AFCON tournaments.
Rohr’s contract expires next June and his relationship with the NFF has broken down. In recent interviews, the coach came out to confess that the federation owes him salaries while his players and staff are being owed bonuses and allowances.
In a swift reaction, the federation through the Technical Director of the body, Bitrus Bewarang, accused the handler of breach of contract.
Bewarang, an assistant to Clemens Westerhof when the Super Eagles qualified for their first-ever FIFA World Cup and won the Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia in 1994, cited Clause N of the Code of Conduct for coaches, which states that “coaches must not by their actions or inaction cause NFF or the Federal Government of Nigeria any harm, reputational damage or embarrassment, nor do anything directly or indirectly to undermine their contract with the NFF.”
Less than 24 hours after, Rohr again granted another interview stating that many other countries were already showing interest in his services.
“I can sign for another team by January 1st and will be free to leave by July 1st. I wish to continue but if the situation remains the same, I will consider my options,” Rohr said.
We frown at the fact that the NFF was accusing the coach of speaking to the public. The NFF is also guilty of same offence. The federation did not call Rohr to privately warn him but opted to talk to him through the media. The NFF erred by going to the press in an attempt to correct Rohr. The contract terms should not be a secret document in the first place. In some developed countries, the contract papers won’t be a secret. We recall that when Thijs Ligbrets signed for Nigeria years back, his contract papers were given to journalists during his unveiling.
We make bold to say there are better ways to resolve contractual issues than the pages of newspapers. The NFF should learn to follow the best practices all over the world. With good intention, there is no need to hide anything about the contract of a national team handler. It took newsmen time to confirm the salaries of Mr. Rohr but with just a click of the button, the salaries of all national teams and club coaches all over the world can be confirmed through the Internet.
Like many other Nigerians, we are concerned about the results being posted by the Eagles as we hope the current impasse will not affect the current form of the Super Eagles.
The NFF says the body is only owing a differential of Rohr’s old and new salaries but the coach said it was $100,000. It’s like beating a kid and insisting he should not cry. Certainly, this is not looking good for Rohr and the federation.
No doubt, this issue has escalated because the NFF was not mature in the handling of the development. We expect Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, to wade into the crisis just as we expect that the federation should start looking for options in case Rohr chooses to quit.