Gernot Rohr on football in Africa: hotel attacks and witchcraft

Trained Aubameyang, Osimhen & & Co.

When Gernot Rohr trained the for the first time a few weeks ago Benin looked after as national coach, it was also a kind of coming home, because the African continent is the second home of the German-French. With Gabon, the Niger, Burkina Faso,
Nigeria and now Benin, Rohr has been on the sidelines for a total of five nations in the course of his coaching career to date. The former Bundesliga player’s fascination with Africa has been unbroken for years, and he himself is revered as a coaching legend on the continent. “Since I’ve been working as a trainer in Africa, I’ve become more relaxed. Which also has to do with the mentality of the people who are very enthusiastic and always have a smile on their face. I don’t see myself as a legend, I see myself more as a coach who is incredibly lucky to be able to work on this great continent,” said Rohr in an interview with Transfermarkt.

Included a lot initially looked like a coaching career, which should concentrate exclusively on Europe.After his active time, during which he was able to celebrate great successes, especially in France with three championship titles won as a professional of Girondins Bordeaux, he initially trained United States Créteil, OGC Nice, BSC Young Boys and Air Conditioner Ajaccio, before it took him to the African continent for the first time in 2008 to the Tunisian first division team ES Sahel. The love he felt for Africa actually had its roots in his first engagement as the national coach of Gabon. With the “Panthers” he experienced his first participation in the Africa Cup 2012.

The team led by star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang advanced to the quarter-finals at the time, with enthusiasm for this experience still looks at guy Rohr in the face today.” The country is full of diversity and has an incredible beauty to offer. When I received the request at the time, I was seized with a sense of adventure. But there was also the attraction of doing something completely new “Gabon was then the host of the Africa Cup of Nations and it was a great experience for the whole country. For me, the Africa Cup of Nations is an event that must be experienced. It’s not just a competition on the football field, but also in the stands . Every country shows up in its traditional garb and thus presents its cultural diversity. No matter which game you watch, the passion for football is unbroken,” says the 69-year-old.

Rohr raved about Aubameyang: “Pierre-Emerick had two sides: off the pitch he was extravagant, his style of clothing, especially his chains, always surprised us. He was the ultimate role model on the pitch. Not only did he inspire his teammates, but the entire country. Until then, I hadn’t seen a player who could run the 50 meters that fast.”

Africa coach legend Gernot Rohr on the time in Niger and Burkina Faso

The native of Mannheim then moved on to Niger “The time in the West African country makes the veteran coach look at life differently. After all, Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and has repeatedly struggled with persistent periods of drought and famine. “People in Niger may be financially very poor “, but at heart they are rich. The people I got to know were endowed with great gratitude and friendliness. This life-affirming way can be reflected in the form of their laughter. They have an incredible joy in life and show it The emotions are stronger than here in Europe. Happy experiences are celebrated twice as simply, while sad experiences pull you down more,” says Rohr.

Two Mané Awards: Summary of African Footballer of the Year

Salah, Mané & & Aubameyang were already among the title holders …

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… of the prize that has been awarded since 1993.


1993: Rashidi Yekini (Victory Setúbal) – Nigeria

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1994: Emmanuel Amunike (Sporting Lissabon) – Nigeria

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1995: George Weah (PSG) – Liberia

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1996: Nwankwo Kanu (Ajax) – Nigeria

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1997: Victor Ikpeba (AS Monaco) – Nigeria

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1998: Mustapha Hadji (Sporting the Crown) – Morocco

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1999: Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal) – Nigeria

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2000: Patrick M’Boma (Cagliari) – Cameroon )

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2001: El-Hadji Diouf (RC Lens) – Senegal.

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2002: El-Hadji Diouf (RC Lens) – Senegal.

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2003: Samuel Eto’o (RCD Mallorca) – Cameroon

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2004: Samuel Eto’o (RCD Mallorca) – Cameroon

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2005: Samuel Eto’o (FC Barcelona) – Cameroon

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2006: Didier Drogba (Chelsea) – Ivory Coast

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2007: Frédéric Kanouté (FC Sevilla) – Mali

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2008: Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) – Togo

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2009: Didier Drogba (Chelsea) – Ivory Coast

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( 2010: Samuel Eto’o (Inter) – Cameroon

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2011: Yaya Touré (Man City) – Elfenbeinküste

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2012: Yaya Touré (Man City) – Elfenbeinküste

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2013: Yaya Touré (Man City) – Elfenbeinküste

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2014: Yaya Touré (Man City) – Elfenbeinküste

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2015: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (BVB) – Gabun

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2016: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) – Algerien

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2017: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Ägypten

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2018: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Ägypten

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2019: Sadio Mané (Liverpool) – Senegal

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2022: Sadio Mané (FC Bayern) – Senegal

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Despite the adverse conditions, “Menas” manage to qualify under the leadership of the German-French for the African Championship 2013. One reason for this success : The cohesion within the team.” I remember a training session when it was 35 degrees in the shade and there was a smell of rubber in the air, which is very common when training on old artificial courts. Despite the weather, the boys were highly motivated. After training, I noticed that many of the players had come to training without eating or drinking because they didn’t have enough money. The complete opposite prevailed in my hotel, where a lavish buffet was set up every morning. I decided to go to the buffet with several bags and pack everything that went. Then I drove to our training ground and said: Everyone can eat as much as they want. I will never forget the smiles on their faces,” remembers the legendary coach.

Rohr also experienced moments that the man would rather avoid as a person. In 2015 he resigned as national coach of Burkina Faso due to the political tensions. “During the first months I lived in a hotel. A few days after I “When I moved to my house, an attack was made on this hotel. This situation made it clear to me what risks one certainly takes and that caution should be a good companion. No matter in which country, it was always made clear to me that it was red There are areas that one should rather not enter,” says the 69-year-old, who has learned over the years how important it is to respond to the respective cultures and especially religions.


Have a say about African football here

To the forum So the football teacher takes public holidays into account during his training. Words like flexibility, softening of possible prejudices and tolerance are also the keys to success. “ The most important thing is to look at the other person as a human being, with all his character traits and facets. It is always important to me to respect the religions of the respective players. I’ve never had a problem with it in my entire coaching career. If we have Christians and Muslims in a team, then one prayer is said first and then the other. Football should always be a connecting element,” emphasizes Rohr, who has already experienced several times that people in Africa rely on the help of medicine men.

Before our home game, the blood of chickens was spread in the opposing penalty area.

” We were down 1-0 on my debut for Benin. We had a number of chances, but the equalizer didn’t want to fall. Suddenly, a person ran towards the opponent’s goal and stole the goalkeeper’s white towel. A short time later we equalized. I later learned that the white towel is bewitching and prevented us from getting the equalizer.I also experienced a similar situation in Gabon: before our home game, the blood of chickens was spread in the opponent’s penalty area. That should bring no luck to the guest goalkeeper and us as many goals as possible. In hindsight, I have to say, sometimes it helped, sometimes not”, says Rohr with a smile.

Due to his services to football abroad, he was named Coach of the Year by the German Football Ambassador initiative in 2016. A title that makes him proud to this day: “I feel great gratitude for the award when “Male thinks that esteemed colleagues like Uli Stielike, Jürgen Klinsmann or Jürgen Klopp have also received this title. I also see this award as an obligation to continue to represent German football abroad.”

He celebrated his greatest successes in African football with the Nigerian national team, which he also looked after the longest. During his term of office, which lasted from August 2016 to December 2021, he not only qualified for the 2018 World Cup, but also achieved third place at the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 with his team. “The time in Nigeria was just great. We were able to create a buzz across the country that was long lasting. Third place at the African Championships made me particularly proud after the country failed to qualify twice in a row. As a thank you, the entire team carried me through the stadium on their shoulders,” Rohr recalls with a laugh.

While Africa fascinates him, the round leather fascinates him in turn across the continent of Africa, but football is much more than a pleasant pastime, it is a symbol of hope and reverie, especially for young people, and escaping helplessness, it is the pursuit of happiness and a better life. “Of course the chance of being discovered is greater in a country like Nigeria than in Niger. Better structures have to be created in such countries so that no talent falls through the sieve. I’ve never seen an African player that I had to motivate . The greed and hunger to pursue your dream as a professional soccer player in Europe are limitless.” Such talent was also Victor Osimhen, who made his debut under pipe for the Nigeria national team. “I would be happy if he found his way to Bayern Munich,” says the former Bayern professional about the current star striker at SSC Napoli, who is said to be in the sights of the German record champions.

Now Rohr would like to pass on his knowledge and experience in Benin and ensure that sporting success returns. Rohr has a big goal in the West African country, which at the same time represents a challenging task: “I will soon be 70 years old old and it would be a nice end to my coaching career if I could qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations again with Benin. Maybe we can even pull off a bigger surprise and qualify for the 2026 World Cup.”

Speaking of the World Cup: When asked if he could imagine a world champion coming from Africa in the future, Rohr replies clearly: “I’m convinced that it won’t be long before we have an African world champion for the first time. If I had to pick one, it would be Morocco. The country invests an incredible amount of money in training and the infrastructure. In general, such a title would give the whole continent an incredible boost.”

Text by Henrik Stadnischeko

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