Russian women are famous for their beauty, and it seems to be a concern for the Nigerian head coach Gernot Rohr. Just a few weeks before the World Cup in Russia, he strictly warned his players against engaging in sexual contacts with local ladies during the tournament.
Only wives and girlfriends are welcome
In fact, the German coach does not prohibit sex completely. Wives and girlfriends are allowed to visit the players, at least after the games, but casual Russian girls are not. There is an exception to this rule, as the team captain John Obi Mikel has a Russian girlfriend Olga Dyachenko. But otherwise, it will be impossible for the Super Eagles to start affairs with locals, because their coach thinks that it may affect their performance in a negative way.
Interestingly, Rohr was recently asked if he was ready to marry a Nigerian woman - and the German said that he would hardly consider this option, given the cultural and language barriers. The 65-year-old coach knows what he says, as he has already spent quite a lot of time in Africa. Before taking over in Nigeria two years ago, Rohr worked as a national coach in Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Hopes to make history
Seen as an African football powerhouse, Nigeria have been constantly proving it by qualifying for almost every World Cup. Starting from 1994, they missed it just once, in 2006. And the Super Eagles did pretty well in the finals, progressing from the group in three of their five tournaments. During the last decades, Nigeria were often expected to become the first African nation ever to reach the World Cup semi-final. But in reality, they have never gone past the Last 16 so far and were unable to match the results of Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana, three African sides who played in the World Cup quarter-final.
Will they do it in Russia? The goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa thinks that Nigeria can make history and become the first ever African team to reach the semi-final. In his opinion, even winning the title does not look unlikely: “With God, everything is possible.” Ezenwa’s optimism and self-belief are remarkable, yet many people take a more down-to-earth approach and think that it will be difficult for the Super Eagles to progress from the competitive group with Argentina, Croatia and Iceland.
However, their pool in the African qualifying was not easy either. With Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia in the group, it was hard to single out a favourite, yet the Super Eagles booked their ticket to Russia surprisingly easily, finishing five points clear from the runners-up Zambia. Notably Nigeria had a 100 per cent record at home where they won all three games - the Super Eagles are traditionally strong at home.
Rohr has many talented players at his disposal, but his task is to create the perfect mix which will bring results. And who will be Nigeria’s key players? Of course, one of them is the 31-year-old captain John Obi Mikel, who boasts not only a beautiful Russian girlfriend, but good playmaking skills and creativity. Another stalwart is Chelsea winger Victor Moses, who has enjoyed a decent season at his club. Young attacking players such as Wilfried Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho deserve to be mentioned as well, as each of them has a chance to get into spotlight in Russia.
However, defence seems to be Rohr’s biggest concern, as most back line players lack experience. And when the goalkeeper Carl Ikeme was diagnosed with acute leukemia last summer and started his battle against the disease, that only made things worse. Many Nigerian fans called for the return of the experienced Vincent Enyeama, who had retired from international football in 2015. Last year, the 35-year-old expressed his desire to come back, yet the coaching staff denied him the chance. In Russia, Rohr will rely on less known goalies like the above-mentioned Ikechukwu Ezenwa, who plays his club football at Nigeria’s Enyimba but is ready to lift the World Cup.