BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Super Eagles’ most successful coach, Clemens Westerhof is 80 years old today 3 May 2020. He is easily the most successful of all the 38 coach that have handled the Nigerian national football team in 71 years.
The Dutch football manager who ventured into Africa through his engagement by Nigeria in 1989 qualified the Super Eagles for the World Cup for the first time and also won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994, making him the first manager engaged by Nigeria to win the premier continental football competition outside the country.
By also taking the Super Eagles to the runners-up position in the 1990 edition, he became the first manger to win the top three positions of the Africa Cup of Nations having led the Super Eagles to the third position at the 1992 edition in Senegal.
He took the Super Eagles to the Round of 16 at their debut appearance at the World Cup in 1994 and was just 90 seconds short of taking the team to the quarterfinals before Italy fought back and eventually won the dramatic encounter by two goals to one.
He left his position immediately after that and later took up appointment with Zimbabwe and Mamelodi Sundowns FC in South Africa.
Westerhof began his career as an assistant coach with Feyenoord Rotterdam in the Dutch Eredivisie. He also coached another Dutch side, Vitesse Arnhem.
His first official match with Nigeria was the August 27, 1989 World Cup qualifying match with Cameroon in Yaoundé.
Nigeria lost the match 1-0, failing to get at least a draw, which would have seen the Super Eagles getting to the last qualifying stage for the 1990 World Cup.
Before then, Westerhof was on the stands when Nigeria played two World Cup qualifiers against Gabon in Libreville and Angola in Lagos, the day Samuel Okwaraji died.