After several weeks of merry-go-round, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Monday finally dispensed with the services of Franco-German coach Gernot Rohr and named former international and erstwhile Super Eagles captain and coach Austin Eguavoen as his replacement albeit on interim basis.
This is a third spell for Eguavoen, the current Technical Director of the NFF, after he led the Super Eagles to a bronze medal finish at the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. He stayed on the job until 2007 when he was replaced by Berti Vogts in the build up to the 2008 AFCON hosted by Ghana.
The interim coach in an interview called for collaborative efforts to ensure the Eagles soar again as he avoided comparison between him and Salisu Yusuf who has been retained as the chief coach.
“This is not about Eguavoen or Salisu, it is about Nigeria. The new technical crew needs everyone’s prayers and support from Nigerians,” he stated. “We must believe in our own and we are open to constructive criticism that will make our super Eagles better.
He continued: “I am delighted to take charge of the Super Eagles as interim coach. I am on a rescue mission, which is a big challenge and a tough job for me. But I am happy because the assistants appointed to work with me are exposed and experienced coaches,” he noted .
Incidentally, the former international defender was also an interim coach with the national team in 2010 before he was handed the U23 national team job same year. He resigned his appointment in 2011 after his U-23 side failed to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
But what manner of coach is the 56-year-old Eguavoen?
“If I have to speak on coach Eguavoen, it may take the whole of day because I only have positive words to say about him,” Kingsley Udoh who was a defender in Eguavoen‘s U-23 side of 2011, told NationSport .“He is a good coach and we were only unfortunate not to make it to the Olympic 2012 Games.
“Had the foreign-based players that took part in the qualifiers were released by their clubs to complement our efforts back then, we won’t have struggled the way we did in the opening two games during the U-23 Cup of Nations.
“I believe he will be a success with the Super Eagles because he is not a novice to it. He knows the players very well and won’t suffer much stress naming a strong squad. I am happy for him.”
Equally, Abe Sunday who worked with Eguavoen during his brief spell with Sunshine Stars, has positive things to say about the Sapele-born tactician.
“I’m glad I worked under him; he made the game so easy for us and he explains things to the letter,” Abe told NationSport. “Though he didn’t stay long, the little period he spent with us meant a lot to me.”
Way back in June 2005,Eguavoen was appointed the caretaker coach of the Super eagles with his coaching staff including Samson Siasia, Daniel Amokachi and Ike Shorunmu.
The quartet took Nigeria to the 2006 AFCON in Egypt and in that squad was midfield Trojan Sani Kaita who now reckoned that Eguavoen’s leadership skills and coaching expertise is undoubtedly good.
“He(Eguavoen) has got good leadership skills and understood the game well,” Kaita, who won a bronze medal with Eguavoen-led Super Eagles in 2006, told NationSport from his base in Holland. “Eguavoen is a good choice for the Super Eagles; he is a good coach and has got the experience to lead the team to success.
“What has the previous coach (Gernot Rohr) achieved since his arrival? Eguavoen achieved the same bronze medal he won in 2019 in Egypt about 20 years ago. “
The former Alania Vladikavkaz midfielder, therefore, called on Nigerians to give Eguavoen the necessary support for him to excel in his new appointment: “Let’s give him the full support to build a competitive team. I’m pretty sure he will deliver.”
Another player that played under Eguavoen during his days with the Super Eagles is goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba who is currently attached with Kwara United.
“When Eguavoen was in charge of the Eagles back then he ensured more home based players were invited to camp; it was then I got my chance and so many others,” Aiyenugba who got his international debut under Eguavoen on 16th November 2005 in a 3-0 defeat to Romania in an international friendly. “He was also very serious with his work and doesn’t tolerate nonsense.
But he is very simple to deal with, if you are very obedient and keep to instructions. He is capable enough to lead the Eagles and I don’t have doubt that he won’t do well as the Eagles coach,” he added.
Also speaking on Eguavoen’s appointment, a former Super Falcons coach, Godwin Izilein, said it was a step in the right direction, adding Eguavoen has the prerequisite skills to re-energise the national team.
Izilein described Eguavoen as a person of impeccable character, whose passion for excellence and commitment to the growth of Nigerian football was top notch, tipping him to succeed in his new plum position.
Former Enyimba and Rangers’ coach, Gbenga Ogunbote, said Eguavoen’s appointment as the head of NFF’s technical department was going to usher in new vim and vigour into Nigerian football.
“Eguavoen is a thoroughbred professional who understands technical issues. I see new things beckoning for our football,” said Ogunbote, who is currently the head coach of NPFL side, Remo Stars.
Meanwhile, former Super Eagles coach, Sylvanus Okpala, applauded the decision of the NFF to appoint Eguavoen but wished the decision had been made much earlier.
“Nigerians are looking forward to a favourable result and I believe they will also like to work towards it. I say congratulations to all the coaches that have been appointed,” Okpala noted. “Eguavoen has seen the team. He’s been going round with them. Even he goes to away matches, I think so. He is the Technical Director of the NFF.
“He knows what to do. Nigeria goes to any competition with the sole aim of winning. We are looking forward to winning in Cameroon just like the remaining teams. We are not going there to just participate.”
Speaking in the same vein, former national team captain and coach Christian Chukwu , hailed the NFF’s decision to name a new coach but faulted the timing.
“He merited it because he is the Technical Director so he has to take over in the interim pending the arrival of a substantive coach,” Chukwu stated. “Eguavoen has been a nice person. He has worked with me. He is the only person who is in the NFF who can handle the national team in the interim. I wish him all the best.
” If you ask for my candid opinion, the time they sacked Rohr is too close to the AFCON. In my opinion, they should have left him to finish the AFCON before taking the decision.
“Eguavoen should not be new to the players.
“We expect success in AFCON. We want them to give the home based players an opportunity too because you can’t build your national team on foreign based players alone. What of the day they will decide they won’t come? We have good players back home.”
Yet former Super Eagles winger and Enyimba’s current head coach , Finidi George admonished Nigerians to ensure all hands are on deck for the team to perform creditably well Cameroon.
“I don’t know if the NFF is right or wrong for sacking Gernot Rohr but we expect the Super Eagles to do well in Cameroon. I am not in a position to know if the NFF did the right thing or not. All that I am concerned about is the team and I hope the team does well in Cameroon,” George noted.
“The appointment of Eguavoen is good because when a coach is sacked there must be a replacement. Eguavoen has been there. He has done it before and coming in with the other technical crew mentioned, there should be no doubt of them doing a good job. We just want to wish them all the best in the competition.
“I think the technical crew has nothing to worry about. These are very active players. They play in Europe. Bringing them here just to acclimatize will give them the needed preparation and they will be good to go.”
George is tipping the Eagles to go as far as possible in the competition insisting that the target for Nigeria at any competition they attend is to emerge as winners: “Nigerians should expect the best from the players at AFCON. I think the players will give a good account of themselves.
“They know what’s at stake and that the expectations are very high. Since the ex-coach is gone, people will be watching how the team will perform.
“We should be talking about winning the trophy; we should also play good football and hopefully come back with the trophy,” noted Finidi who was Eguavoen’s teammate when the Super Eagles won the AFCON in 1994.