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How Clemens Westerhof Scuttled Nigeria’s FIFA World Cup Record Hope
Clemens Westerhof unarguably is one of the best football coaches to have ever worked with the Nigeria national male football team, Super Eagles, but his single act of not having the country’s best interests at heart cost the Nigeria Federation of International Football Association’s record at the World Cup.
If Westerhof had allowed Nduka Ugbade to play in the Super Eagles’ maiden World Cup appearance in 1994, Nigeria would have become the first country to have a player featured in the U-17, U-20, and senior World Cups.
Ugbade, the first Nigerian and indeed the first Black man to win a FIFA World Cup when he led the country’s schoolboys team to victory in the inaugural Under-16 World Cup in China in 1985, and also a member of the silver-winning U-20 side in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, was left out of the senior national team for reasons best known to Westerhof.
“What happened to Ugbade was the handiwork of coach Westerhof because the coach was also a player agent and any player that did not go through him to secure club are always in his bad book,” said one squad member who did not want his name printed.
“That is what almost happened to Emmanuel Emunike who was not used in the Nations Cup until the final because he refused to sign for a club sanction by Westerhof”.
According to Ugbade, who was a member of the Super Eagles team that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994, “my absence from the USA’94 group was a bitter experience.” It was something I was quite excited about.
“Later Westerhof admitted in an interview that ‘actually, Ugbade deserved to have gone to USA’94 World Cup.’ But I have forgiven him and we have met on two or three occasions, and we have made up. I’m happy that he admitted as a father that he wronged me,” he said.
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