ABUJA (Reuters) – The coach of Nigeria’s national football team, Gernot Rohr, has accused some reporters covering his team of unethical behavior and coming up with lies in the build-up to their participation in the World Cup in Russia.
Rohr’s latest comments come as the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) attempted to quell a storm caused by an interview the coach granted the German newspaper Die Welt on Thursday.
“I have the utmost respect for Nigerian journalists, with whom I have had a warm relationship over the past two years that I have been in charge of this wonderful team,” Rohr told the federation’s website (thenff.com).
“Over the course of the past two years, I have met so many brilliant Nigerians including journalists who have offered great ideas and suggestions, but as in every profession, there are a number of bad eggs.
“For instance, someone reported that my captain, John Mikel Obi and his deputy, Ogenyi Onazi are at war, creating factions in camp. This is far from the truth. The other day, another person reported that I took money to include some players in the team. We are here preparing to do the country proud and someone come up with these lies.”
In Die Welt, the German-born coach alleged that Nigerian media took bribes from players and agents for favorable coverage.
“There is often a lack of expertise,” he answered in response to a question about the Nigerian media.
“In addition, players and their advisors like to use and gift journalists to put pressure on the coaching team, for example, if they want to be nominated for the squad. Nigeria has a lot of different media, but unfortunately not all are serious,” Rohr was quoted as saying.
The NFF have since claimed Rohr, 64, was quoted out of context.
“Gernot Rohr shares our respect and regard for the media and would not make derogatory statements about the most vibrant media professionals on the African continent,” NFF president Amaju Pinnick said in a statement on Saturday.
“I have spoken to him and he flatly denied calling members of the Nigeria media corrupt. Of course, he admitted saying in the said interview that some persons known to work in the media acted as agents and put pressure on his crew to include certain players in his World Cup squad.
“He did not say anyone was corrupt. He talked about pressure from certain quarters and some media representatives who posed as agents,” added Pinnick.
Nigeria begin their World Cup finals Group D campaign against Croatia in Kaliningrad next Saturday.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg; Editing by Christian Radnedge)