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AFCON: Super Eagles Don’t Have Stars Anymore - Rohr

Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, says that though the team don’t have big players as before, they have team spirit which he hopes will take them far in Egypt

Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, says the last champions’ league games he watched had no Nigerian players / Photo credit: Getty Images
Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, says the last champions’ league games he watched had no Nigerian players / Photo credit: Getty Images

Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, has told TheInterview that his team will approach the final Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Seychelles, and the international friendly game against Egypt as very important matches. Excerpts…

How are you approaching the game against Seychelles and Egypt especially after Eagles already qualified for the AFCON?

We are approaching the matches as very important ones because it is not easy to win games these days. There are no small teams again all over the world, so, we have to give it a total concentration and win the first game against Seychelles.

They got a draw against South Africa in their last game and they are getting ready for this game. They have been in camp since the beginning of March. As for our team, we have started preparation for the AFCON.

It's the last game of the qualifiers; it's an important game for us and I want to see who and who can come in to help us at the AFCON. We have some new players.

We replaced Ola Aina with a home based player after consulting with my assistant, Imama Amakapabo, who knows the players very well.

We called up Ndifreke Effiong from Akwa United and also invited two players from Enyimba; Ikouwem Utin, the captain of the U-20 team and Valentine Ozornwafor, who both excelled at the AFCON played in Niger.

We also have goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa. We are going to see how we can see some of the new players invited to the team.

Anytime we invite a player from the local scene, few weeks later the player is in Europe and no longer home-based. I have invited more than 22 home-based players since I became the coach of the team two and half years ago, but all of them are in Europe and every time we start all over again

You invited Nigeria’s best striker in Europe this season, Paul Onuachu from FC Midtjylland's, Denmark, are we going to see him get a playing time in the games?

Although we don't really have the possibility to see everybody because we have two games, Paul will surely play at least 45 minutes if not more in the two games.

We are searching for a player like that. We have (Odion) Ighalo already and we are satisfied with what he has been doing since after the World Cup. Paul is another possibility. Let’s see how he can play with other players we have in the team. I hope he can play to our satisfaction.

Since you came on board the home-based players have not been given a fair chance in the national team, why?

I can tell you that it is not easy for players from the home league; they always play on AstroTurf which is not really good for players playing in a championship which is not played for six to seven months.

How do you want them to be fit for the national team? Over there in Europe, we have the best facilities, best training and best competitions; it's not easy for the local players.

Now, we have four from the local scene for the game against Seychelles and Egypt. Also, the problem is, anytime we invite a player from the local scene, few weeks later the player is in Europe and no longer home-based.

I have invited more than 22 home-based players since I became the coach of the team two and half years ago, but all of them are in Europe and every time we start all over again.

All of them want to be in the national team, because they see it as a sure way to big money move. I am not saying it's a crime to travel out for greener pastures but they need good infrastructure back home to make them better players and make them to stay back.

The organisation (of the league), the training facilities, the transport, not playing for six months, all these must change for them to be able to get better opportunity in the national team.

We don't have the big players like we used to have in the past; the likes of Austin Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Vincent Enyeama and the rest. What we have now is team spirit; we don't have the stars again. We have young players like Alex Iwobi playing for Arsenal in the Europa League even though he was on the bench in their last game, our strength is the team and I hope it will take us far in Egypt

With the talents at your disposal, Nigerians are tipping the Eagles to lift the AFCON trophy in Egypt, do you agree with that?

We have to be optimistic but if you look at our players, how many of them are playing for big clubs? Who among them is playing in the Champions League?

I watched the last champions’ league games and no Nigerian players. We don't have the big players like we used to have in the past; the likes of Austin Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Vincent Enyeama and the rest.

What we have now is team spirit; we don't have the stars again. We have young players like Alex Iwobi playing for Arsenal in the Europa League even though he was on the bench in their last game, our strength is the team and I hope it will take us far in Egypt.

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