Westerhof revives his romance with Nigeria

WHEN Nigeria lost 2-1 to Italy in a 1994 World Cup second-round match, Clemens Westerhof, the team’s Dutch manager, ended the first chapter of his turbulent romance with one of Africa’s football powers.



=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>But the itch to take on the challenge of developing the next generation of Nigerian players has compelled the ebullient character to return there after an eleven-year absence.


During a five-year period in charge of the Super Eagles, between 1989 and 1994, Westerhof’s bullish personality split opinion polls down the middle.

With the benefit of hindsight, many commentators describe his era as the golden period of Nigerian football.


But the former Zimbabwe Warriors coach feels that he has unfinished business to complete.


“I did not fulfil one position the last time I was in Nigeria and that was to give something back – in terms of youth development,” Westerhof said.


“But now, I will sign a five-year contract to head a (football) school of excellence and I think that it will be a fantastic job.


“We hope to produce talented, educated players for the national team of Nigeria, who can go anywhere in the world.


“I want to show that there are more Kanus, Finidis, Rashidi Yekinis, Jay-Jay Okochas, Amunekes and Babangidas in Nigeria,” Westerhof said.


“But we also want to develop their minds, which will help them learn things a lot quicker,” said the man who has won every African Cup of Nations medal on offer.


Westerhof led Nigeria to the silver medal at the 1990 tournament in Algeria, bronze at the 1992 edition in Senegal and won the ultimate prize at Tunisia ’94, which the Super Eagles have not won since.


The Football College of Excellence, located in Ilorin, the capital of Nigeria’s Kwara State, is the brainchild of Anthony Kojo Williams, former chairman of the Nigeria Football Association and member of Fifa’s five-a-side football committee.


“My contract starts on July 1 but first, I go back to Cape Town, where I live, sort out some matters and by 1 August, I start work,” Westerhof said.


The Dutchman, who had been involved in developing young players, said the chance to play a key role in what would be a unique Nigerian football experiment has rejuvenated his love for the game.


“I worked with the youth academy at Feyenoord in Holland and with Umtata Bush Bucks in South Africa, but they were not serious there.”


In contrast, he is glowing in his praise of the former NFA chairman and said that work done for the school’s take-off is indicative of its great potential.


Westerhof said the school will ensure that youngsters unable to make it in football will not be abandoned to the cruel winds of fate.


“If some of the students can’t make it in football, we will have helped develop their minds, so they can become doctors, lawyers or whatever they choose.”


Westerhof also intends to use the school to nurture the country’s next generation of coaches.


He wants former Nigeria striker Daniel Amokachi and goalkeeper Alloy Agu to play a key role in the school.


“I want Daniel to work with me and assist the head coach, whom I will bring from Holland.


“I also want Alloy to be my goalkeeper trainer. I will talk with him and see if he will accept to live in the school.


“This is a private project, which has nothing to do with the government or the Nigeria Football Association and we’ll show them the way to do it,” said the confident Westerhof. – BBC Sport.

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