DUTCH WAR AS WESTERHOF FLOORS JO BONFRÈRE IN COURT OVER NIGERIA – ITALY WORLD CUP MATCH

BY KUNLE SOLAJA

A court sitting in Arnhem, in the Netherlands has ruled that former Nigerian national team coach, Jo Bonfrère should placed an apology in a Nigerian newspaper for defamation of his former colleague’s character, Clemens Westerhof.

The later, easily the most successful coach Nigeria ever employed dragged his compatriot, Jo Bonfrère to court for defamation of character.

According to various newspaper publications in the Netherlands, Westerhof had gone to court of Arnhem demanding rectification from Bonfrère over statements that the Nigeria –Italy Round of 16 match at the USA ’94 World Cup was fixed.

The Nigeria versus Italy match triggered the litigation

AD, a publication in the Netherlands reviewed the relationship of both Dutch citizens and how it got sour just before the 1994 World Cup.

It went on to report that Bonfrère (74) told a radio station in Nigeria earlier this year that the 80-year-old Westerhof, as the national coach of Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup, had ‘sold’ the match against Italy for $ 100,000.

The allegation prompted Westerhof to seek redress in court.

He therefore demanded rectification from his former Limburg assistant, who later succeeded him as the national coach of Nigeria.

Westerhof, according to the AD reports, said he can now return to the Nigerian union as technical director.

The former trainer first wants his name cleared. The judge will make a decision in the summary proceedings within two weeks.

According to another Dutch publication, Voetbal International, the rather remarkable and painful case came to an end with the court ruling in Westerhof’s favour.

Westerhof who clocked 80 in June, was in the past assistant trainer of Feyenoord, interim trainer at Vitesse and final responsibility at MVV Maastricht, before he was surprisingly appointed as national coach of Nigeria in the summer of 1989.

He did not qualify with that country for the 1990 World Cup, but later that year he did reach the final of the Africa Cup, the tournament where he also took bronze two years later.

The absolute highlight was the year 1994, in which Nigeria won the Africa Cup and reached the World Cup in the United States.

There, Super Eagles were narrowly eliminated in the eighth final (2-1 after extra time) by the eventual losing finalist Italy.

Despite that elimination, Westerhof and his players were hailed in Nigeria.

During that tournament, Bonfrère (now 74 years old) was already the assistant national coach, after Westerhof’s departure he took over.

Incidentally, both gentlemen were no longer friends at that successful World Cup.

Just before the 1994 Africa Cup, the two got into a fight and Westerhof was completely done with his right hand, it was thanks to the intervention of a high-ranking officer from the former Nigerian National Sports Commission that Bonfrère was allowed to stay on as assistant national coach.