‘Nothing is impossible’ - Former Super Eagles star Okonkwo backs Rohr to win Afcon

Gernot Rohr NigeriaGetty

Chibuzor Okonkwo believes Nigeria national team coach Gernot Rohr can win the Africa Cup of Nations trophy.

The 66-year-old was recently handed a two-and-a-half-year contract by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) as his current deal is set to run out next month.

Confirming the contract extension on Wednesday, NFF president Amaju Pinnick stated the Franco-German tactician must win the next Afcon title in 2021.

Rohr has been in charge of the three-time African champions since 2016 and guided them to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and also led the side to finish third at the 2019 Afcon tournament in Egypt.

Okonkwo, who has nine caps for the Super Eagles, believes the Franco-German tactician deserved a renewal of his contract, given his performances.

The full-back also stated Rohr can meet the target set for him by the NFF, but wants him to introduce more experienced players into the national team.

“He has been doing well and I believed he has a good team which can win trophies for Nigeria. He deserved to continue to be in charge of the Super Eagles,” Okonkwo told Goal.

“Winning the Africa Cup of Nations title is not a tall dream because nothing is impossible and I believe Rohr can do it for Nigeria.

“He needs to bring in more experienced players to the team, although the present young players at his disposal are doing well, but he needs to blend the team to make it competitive.”

Okonkwo spent most of his career in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), playing for Bayelsa United, Heartland, Enyimba and Enugu Rangers among others.

Rohr has been criticised for his reluctance to introduce more home-based players into the national team, with Katsina United goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa the only consistent local figure in the Super Eagles squad.

Okonkwo, however, feels the league management body must improve the NPFL in order to enable Rohr to discover players who can add value to his team.

“For me, it is all about choice, the coach knows what he wants and I feel he needs to introduce more home-based players who can give the foreign-based players a good fight," he added.

“But the league must be developed to enable him to get good home-based players for instance in Egypt, 80% of the national team players are based in the country, they play in their league.

“Not everybody will go to Europe to play, I believe we have quality players in Nigeria who he can choose from, but the league must be made attractive to investors, players and other stakeholders.

“We have good players in the league but with the way it is right now, it might be difficult to get one. The referees are not doing well because of their biased officiating.

“Also, some irate fans evade the pitch to harass the referees and sometimes beat them; all these will not make the league attractive.

“So the league is not standard yet. When home teams will want to win at all costs then it will never be attractive.

“I believe the mixture of both foreign and home-based players will only improve the Super Eagles and make it competitive.”

Before the coronavirus outbreak across the world, Rohr named a 23-man squad to face Sierra Leone in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying game which was expected to take place in March before it was suspended.

Nigeria currently top Group L with six points after victories against the Republic of Benin and Lesotho.