Franco-German Gernot Rohr says managing the Super Eagles has been his most passionate job despite having previously coached at club and national team levels.
The gaffer has 30 years of coaching experience after managerial duties at European sides Bordeaux, Créteil, Nice, Young Boys and Ajaccio, before moving to Tunisian giants Étoile du Sahel in 2009.
He returned to France for a short stint at Nantes, before again journeying to Africa for spells in Gabon (2010–2012), Niger (2012–2014) and Burkina Faso (2015) and thereafter Nigeria in 2016.
On arrival, the coach found the national team in a hopeless situation, after already failing to secure qualification for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, but fans were critical of his appointment, having managed less-fancied sides on the continent with little success.
However, a steady rebuilding process, which had some of the ageing stars like Brown Ideye, Elderson Echiejile and Efe Ambrose shown the exit door for more vibrant and up-and-coming players like Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Osimhen, Joe Aribo and Jamilu Collins, saw the Eagles climb up back to the top echelon of African football.
Rohr steered the Eagles to a first round exit at the 2018 World Cup before the squad went on to finish in third-place at the 2019 AFCON with an array of largely new faces.
In an exclusive interview with MADE Magazine, Rohr said the passion to manage the Eagles stemmed from the reception and love from the country’s football-crazy populace.
“The Eagles job is the most passionate and this has fired in me the desire to do well,” he told MADE Magazine.
“This job here is very different because we speak English in Nigeria, a language I did not speak since my school days, but I have learnt back quickly in the country. The mentality here is different, just like you have between Francophone and Anglophone countries, but I didn’t have any problem adapting because I was received by everybody, not only members of the team, but Nigerians as well.
“When I go out, I feel this love; I feel it everywhere, which makes it very hard to leave because there is human relationship, which is important also.”
On his impression about Nigerians, Rohr added, “I see very good people everywhere I go. But I must say that there are a lot of poor people who believe in God and who are strong. I love them so much because I know that life will be better in the future for them.
“There are also a lot of people who are former footballers. We have Nwankwo Kanu; we invited him for our prayers and to speak with the team. I like when they are around because they offer very good criticisms sometimes.
“I try to work with former local players like Victor Agali but it was not easy because he didn’t have any accreditation to come to watch the matches. We had to pay his ticket and flight money for games but he was a good scout for us. He watched South Africa, Cameroon and so many games for us. So, there are so many Nigerians who are my very good friends.”