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NFF and Gernot Rohr: A match made in heaven or not?

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When news broke that Super Eagles of Nigeria technical adviser, Gernot Rohr, had run afoul of his contract agreement with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), alarm bells started ringing nationwide.

After replacing interim national team manager Salisu Yusuf in August 2016 a good union existed among the couple.

NFF president Amaju Pinnick said in the wake of the appointment that it was one of the major gambles he had taking in his lifetime and he felt good about it.

Rohr’s immediate target was to qualify the Super Eagles of Nigeria for last year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia which he delivered effortlessly in a difficult group that paraded Cameroun, Algeria and Zambia.

But recent developments point to cracks in the young football matrimony as it were.

Anthony Nlebem of Matchcentre.ng reported that Rohr spoke to the press concerning issues related to his unpaid wages and bonuses over a certain period thereby breaking clauses E and N of the NFF Code of Conduct for coaches.

This comes as a big puzzle as the NFF does not depend on the government to pay national team salaries anymore.

Prior to his taking over the job, the football federation’s major problem was getting the federal government to pay coaches’ salaries usually running into arrears

There are issues behind the current state of affairs between both parties which needs to be cleared here in order for the entire situation to be understood.

The Super Eagles technical adviser came out open middle of the past week to talk about his frustration with the delayed payment of staff and player fees including extra emphasis on his pending contract renewal.

He said: “The President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has told me that we will sit down in January 2020 for a discussion and the conclusion of the extension of my contract, which runs out on the 30th of June.”

“But I am surprised that the NFF is taking their time to conclude a contract. And to be honest, I am also surprised that when I was given a contract extension after qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, it was only extended until July 2020, which is right in the middle of qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. That is not normal and it is only the Federation that can explain the reason for this.”

“According to the provisions of my current contract with Nigeria, I am free, from January 1st 2020, to enter into a pre-contract agreement with any club or national team, to start work with them on the first of July 2020. That is my right.

“While I have had a good time with my players and staff over the last three years, I have to say that relations with the administration have not been very easy, especially when it comes to the payment of my wages and that of the bonuses and allowances of my players and staff. There needs to be a lot more respect in this regard.”

NFF’s Technical Director, Bitrus Bewarang cleared the air albeit inconclusively, saying the only money due was the differential in his new contract of around $30,000.

Energy Company Aiteo is primarily concerned with the responsibility of paying national team wages across all national team categories since the forming of the federation board led by Amaju Pinnick.

A closer look at the matter on ground leads one to think that there is gap in communication between the body and Rohr’s.

Bewarang stated that they were in the process of confirming payment with Aiteo but Rohr seems starkly unaware of the development judging by his recent news conference.

With the Franco-German manager’s contract running out in June/July 2020, the football body will need to work quickly in deciding whether to renew the fairly successful relationship in existence between them.

There have been a few enquiries as to the availability of the technical adviser with Morocco stepping forward in 2019 already.

The options in front of the football house are straightforward: keep Rohr and continue the building process or axe him and start all over.

The good news however, lies in the fact that Bewarang mentioned: “The NFF wishes that Rohr continues in the job because of the team he is building for Nigeria which looks promising and has earned some good results since he took charge, but he cannot continue to nonchalantly cause the NFF as a body, and Nigeria as a nation, reputational damage through his utterances and actions.”

“Last week, we paid all the national team coaches and we are putting in place mechanism to ensure we don’t owe them going forward. We commend AITEO for its belief in the NFF and for always making funds available to pay the coaches.”

A new a structure of payment for players and staff will form part of the basis of Rohr’s contract talks slated for January 2020.

His immediate fear is getting confirmation early enough-while the Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers go on that he will remain on the job.

Getting the contract over the line in time will enable Rohr concentrate squarely on the job and avoid the distraction of finding another while the current terms run out.

It will be the hope of all and sundry that the “marriage”-delightful in the eyes of all-will continue to flourish to the level of more silverware for Nigeria.

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