Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest
collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as
a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
the World Cup.
Read earlier columns
My clash with the Nigerian World Cup coach
Once upon a time, I was a talented goalkeeper. A lot of people, among them
prominently myself, thought I was, but there was one tiny problem. The head
coach of my club Columbia had other ideas. He said to me that there was one
person in the club, who had to be considered a better shotstopper than me.
So that meant the second team for me, for the second year in a row. At
least, that’s what he wanted. As usual, stubborn as I was, I thought I knew
better, so I told him I was willing to do many things, but playing in the
second team was not one of them. “Trainer, would you please listen to me? If
you want your team to be champion next year, give me the number 1 jersey.
Just like last year, it will take something really special to beat me the
coming season”, that’s about what I told him. His answer that, looking
merely at the goalkeeper qualities, I was the better of the two, but that my
opponent was much more experienced and fitted better in the very young first
team, could not convince me at all. Although I had only two years of
goalkeeping-experience behind me. The end of the story was, that I quit the
club before the league had started and wasn’t allowed by the Dutch FA to
play for another club that whole season. I wish I could turn back time now,
but unfortunately I can’t.
Not being able to play felt like not being permitted to eat. You can sustain
for some time, but after a few days you just have to. I trained each week
with a friend, but it was fake. After a while it became clear, that I wasn’t
the goalie I had been the year before, I lacked match-practice. Now I have
always been someone, who chose to attack when I was in trouble. Just read
the first lines of this column, and you know it. So I took pencil and paper,
and offered my services to three professional clubs: FC Utrecht, Go Ahead
Eagles and Vitesse. I could reach these clubs easily by bus or by train, and
that was important since I didn’t have a driving-licence then. To my
surprise all these three famous clubs invited me to come training with them
or to play a testmatch. This could be the turning point in what I thought
could be a great career. Now, 17 years later, I must admit it was a mistake.
But let’s say that I was young and very ambitious. I can not turn back the
time, I told you before.
So I travelled to Utrecht, only to play a disastrous testmatch there. I had
never played so badly, one of the goals against me was a backpass that I
really should have saved. Okay, it was an awful backpass, but still. No,
this really wasn’t my night, if something was clear it was, that I had not
played a soccermatch for many months. After a few days I received a letter:
“Dear mr. Doevendans, there is no place for you at FC Utrecht. We’re sorry,
but we wish you a lot of success in your further career. We will follow you
closely.” Of course I never heard of them again, but this letter was already
more than I could have asked for after such a dramatic performance.
I thought I had a better chance with Go Ahead Eagles in Deventer, when I was
invited to train and play with them for a whole week. It was the time when
Raymond van der Gouw, nowadays goalkeeper for Manchester United, was second
choice goalie for Go Ahead. I must say I did a lot better during this week.
I trained well and played two matches, the first one was average but in the
second match I played well. I saved a couple of difficult shots, but the
other invited goalies were also talents and given they were a few years
younger than me, it was obvious that Go Ahead chose another goalie to join
them for the next year. Still I was satisfied, my form was increasing.
That gave me the idea that I had an even better chance with Vitesse, a
second division club then. They were a rather poor side in those years,
there was no money whatsoever and they couldn’t afford too many good
players. Being in Arnhem, I met someone who had an international career in
the 90’s. Close followers of the World Cup may remember him. His name:
Clemens Westerhof, the head-coach of Vitesse in that period. He was coach
for Nigeria during the World Cup 1994. Westerhof was a man with a bad
reputation. And owner of a very, very big mouth. One of my friends, playing
in the reserves of Vitesse, had warned me: "Look out for Westerhof, he is
not to be trusted. There are a lot of strange things going on at this club.
Westerhof can promise you something, but the next day he will not remember."
Apart of that, he was infamous in Holland for telling lies about his own
professional soccer career, that appeared not to have existed at all. So I
was a warned man. The training of Westerhof, then a more than ten year
veteran as coach in Dutch soccer, was worse than you could ever imagine. I
never saw something like that, it was laughable. He let the players just
play 6-against-6 games each time, in which he took part himself. His only
intention - being a little, overweight man who of course wasn't able to
offer any resistance to the much younger and more or less well-trained
players - was to score as many goals as possible himself, shooting every
ball he got towards goal. They did nothing else, there were no corrections
from the coach on any aspect. It was just pastime. Experienced players, like
former Dutch international player Harry Lubse, were just smiling, shrugged
their shoulders and did nothing at all during these trainingsessions. Maybe
that’s why Vitesse did so badly that year.
But this Clemens Westerhof appeared to be very pleased with my goalkeeping
abilities. And I must say I played a good testmatch and was also in great
shape during training. For Clemens Westerhof there was no better goalie than
Ruud Doevendans, it seemed. After one of those trainings, he took me out to
the “Monnikenhuize” Stadium. CW Superstar, utterly convinced of himself,
would make it hot for me and he tried to defeat me time after time from 20
metres distance. But I saved one shot after the other. My finest hour had
finally arrived. “Son”, he said to me, “next week we will be playing a
friendly match against an amateur side, and I want you to play the whole
match”. I didn’t need more, I had passed this first examination. And in this
game he had invited me for, again I played well. Although I conceded a silly
penaltykick, everyone was satisfied. The following week I played another
game against an Apeldoorn Amateur XI, again with good result.
After that game, I thought it was the right moment to do business, and I
asked Westerhof whether he was going to take me to Vitesse or not. “Son”, it
became a ritual, “son, I want you to join Vitesse. Next tuesday at 7 I will
be at your home to discuss matters. But anyway, I want you at Vitesse next
year.” That was just what I wanted to hear. The following tuesday, I was
ready at an early stage to receive the headcoach of Vitesse Arnhem, my club
for the next year. I was still living at my parent’s house, and my mother
had made a good cup of coffee with a nice applepie. She wouldn’t leave
anything to luck, this night her beloved son’s career would start. But there
was one, little problem. Westerhof didn’t show up. It became 7.30, 8.00,
8.30 and 9.00, but no Westerhof. I got nervous. At last, at about 10.00, the
telephone rang. “Ruud D-Doevendans sp-speaking”, I stuttered. “Yes,
Westerhof here”, I heard at the other end. Relief and indignation fought for
priority in the whirlpool of my thoughts. What came then:
Westerhof: “Son, listen to me. I am a little late.”
Me, sharpwitted: “Yeah, that’s right. The applepie is becoming mouldy in the
Westerhof: “It’s my daughter’s birthday, you know. My suggestion is that I
can be with you at midnight.”
Me: “I’m sorry mister Westerhof, but since I’m living at my parental house I
can not receive you at midnight.”
Westerhof, apparently angered: “Now you listen to me, it’s tonight or never.
If I can not be with you at midnight, this is all over!”
Me, trying to save things: “But mister Westerhof, why can’t we set up
another meeting. Even if I want to, I can not receive you this late, couldn’
t you have realized last week that today would be your daughter’s birthday?”
It’s better to stop the quotation here, because he got really mad at me. He
started calling names and used very abusive language. I was frightened to
death, since I saw a whole career go up in smoke. I tried to persuade him,
but in vain: he had already hang up. That was my career as a professional
footballplayer, prematurely ended. After that, I had a nice career as an
amateur goalkeeper, but I was never invited to play professional soccer
again. I had to accept it. Although I would have loved it to join Vitesse,
or whatever professional club.
Later, after virtually being axed from Dutch soccer, Clemence Westerhof
moved to Africa, and was appointed coach of Nigeria at the World Cup 1994.
For me, it was the ultimate evidence that you do not need to be a great
trainer-coach to make it to the World Cup. Can you imagine, this man has
been the coach of Rasheed Yekini, of Daniel Amokachi, Jay-Jay Okocha, Finidi
George and Stephen Keshi! Players of international class. To me, that’s
unbelievable. He shouldn’t be allowed to train a fourth division team in
Nigeria, or wherever. The Nigerian players, sick of his tactical mistakes
and disparaging behaviour, threw him out of the dressingroom at half-time
during their World Cup match with Italy in 1994. He always called the
players and the people from Africa “those blacks”. When he was over in
Holland, he often gave interviews saying “Those blacks don’t understand a
thing about soccer”, and “I will show those blacks what it takes to be
successful”. Awful man! Westerhof had a really good relationship – something
he was proud of – with the late dictator colonel Abacha, and to me that
tells the whole story. Keep away from this dangerous man, who only lives for
one thing: himself.
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