Super Eagles Team Coordinator, Patrick Pascal has lauded the effort of Gernot Rohr in qualifying the country for the 2022 AFCON, while admitting that the Franco-German tactician has ‘changed the face of Nigerian football’ with the introduction of young players to the team, The Heritage Times reports.
Rohr was appointed coach of the Nigerian national team in 2016 after Ex-international Sunday Oliseh announced his resignation.
The 67-year-old in his first few months in charge, qualified the Super Eagles for the World Cup in Russia, where they got eliminated in the preliminary stage and won bronze at the AFCON finals in Egypt two years ago.
Nigeria enjoyed a good outing in Russia despite failing to advance to the round of 16.
Before the World Cup, the Super Eagles had finished top of their qualifying group which had Algeria, Zambia and Cameroon with a game to spare and were named the second youngest squad in Russia behind Mexico with an average age of 24.9 years.
While it appears that Rohr does have a soft spot for young players in the national team, Pascal believes it is a step in the right direction for the future of the country’s football.
The former Gençlerbirliği Ankara of Turkey utility player, who recently got a surprised three-bedroom apartment reward from the governor of Lagos state Babajide Sanwo-Olu following his Atlanta ’96 success, insisted the current crop of players in the senior national team can play for a decade.
“What we should be thankful for, is that we have players who can play in the national team for over a decade.
“You can’t compare the likes of Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze to Ryad Mahrez and Sadio Mane, who are great players but already reaching the twilight of their respective careers. When a coach brings in young players to the team, then the future of that team is bright.
He continued: “The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are already thinking about retirement, but this young players in the Super Eagles can play for 10 years before retiring. So if you have somebody that can play for 10 years and one who can only play for 1 year, who will you choose?
“This is why foreign clubs prefer to extend the contract of younger players than the older ones. Take for instance Real Madrid; despite all Ronaldo did for them, they did not offer him a new contract, which was one of the reasons he left the club.
“There was no room for young players in the Super Eagles back then, because they will tell you that these players are too young to be in the senior national team. We are still facing the same issue, especially in the Nigerian League. You will never see a player from the Golden Eaglets play in the Nigerian League.
“When you play in the U17 world cup, you are supposed to be playing for a league team. But, we don’t have players between the ages of 16 and 17 playing in our Leagues. Thus, when you have players of these ages playing in the Super Eagles isn’t it an achievement? Of course it is.
“For me, Gernot Rohr has changed the face of Nigerian football in terms of bringing young players to the squad,” Pascal added.
After securing qualification for the 2022 AFCON billed for Cameroon, the super Eagles will be expected to commence their World Cup qualifiers in June.
Nigeria have been drawn to face Cape Verde, Liberia and Central African Republic in Group C.
Speaking on why he had not received his reward until now, Pascal told The Heritage Times: “I was part of the Atlanta 96 team. We were three home-based players that made the team. Biodun Baruwa (team mate at 3sc), and Ndubuisi Ndah.
“I was the only person who did not receive the reward after success at the Olympics. The others recieved one million naira each from the late General Sani Abacha and a plot of land in Lekki.
“I moved to a club in Turkey and that was how I didn’t get to receive my reward after the Atlanta 96 triumph,” he said.