Yesterday I reached out to Mexico to congratulate a friend on the win against Germany. This particular coach was part of the process developing the young generation of Mexican players, including coaching Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, who scored the winning goal for Mexico.
The story begins in the summer of 1999, when my brothers (Andrew, Marcus and Benjamin) and Frans Hoek brought a staff of Dutch coaches to come to the US to work with American players in our summer soccer camps. It is something we have done together for close to 25 years, with Andrew and Frans taking the lead.
That summer, camps were hosted at Sonoma State University as well as other locations throughout Sonoma County, northern California and other parts of the US.
One of the coaches that year, was Hans Westerhof, who had coached at several of Holland’s professional clubs including PSV Eindhoven. At PSV, Hans coached amongst others, Brazilian great Romario before he left to FC Barcelona.
Hans was the Youth Director at Ajax Amsterdam at the time he came to the US and he brought his son Jan, who was around 17 years old at the time. In addition to spending time together with his father, “Wout” as he is known, helped his father coach at the camps. One of these camps was a camp in Santa Rosa at Galvin Park, which I co-directed.
At the time, I was the Director of Coaching for Santa Rosa United Soccer Club, so it was an honor and a privilege to work with Hans, learning from someone who had so many amazing experiences. Hans was so open and humble; happy to work with recreational players in Santa Rosa, even though he was accustomed to sharing the field with some of the worlds best players. Romario had been voted the World Player of the Year in 1994 after leading Brazil to the World Cup title in the US. Hans would continue to lead top level clubs in Holland, Mexico and the US.
I enjoyed our time together with Hans and Wout, both on and off the field. Wout was passionate and energetic and although he lacked coaching experience at the time you could see it was something that was in his DNA.
Wout would also join the coaching ranks, spending the last seven years at Pachuca in Mexico. He is currently the u-20 coach and head of talent development at Pachuca and the club has developed a reputation as one of the top youth programs in Mexico and is also gaining respect at the international level for the number of players they have placed on the Mexican youth national teams. Wout’s wife Cecilia is Mexican and they have a young child.
Through messenger, we reminisced about their trip to the US. “I remember and think a lot about that trip,” said Wout. “It made a big impact. We (he and his father) were also lucky, it was a great experience to travel to the US and coach as a father and son,” he added. “Later we did it again at Pachuca but you never know when you will get a chance like that.”
I reminded him of the story that during lunch time trivia, one of the campers asked who the best player his father had ever coached. When Hans replied Romario (World Cup champion with Brazil and voted top player in the world in 1994) the boy turned to his friend and said “who is that.”
Wout also noted that Lozano came to Pachuca when he was 11 and did his entire education at the club. It is well documented that Lozano could be challenging to coach and Wout put a positive spin on it. “He was not easy to coach and gave me some real headaches, but it was all worth it,” he noted. “I learned a lot from coaching him,” he added.
Below is an excerpt of an article by Simon Zwartkuis, which appeared in Voetbal International in Holland. Westerhof expanded on his time coaching Lozano, in advance of Lozano’s move to PSV Eindhoven in Holland.
When Hirving Lozano will soon be reporting in Eindhoven, the purchase of millions from PSV already has ample experience with the Dutch training approach. In his early years, the Mexican international worked intensively with Wout Westerhof, youth trainer and head of talent development at CF Pachuca.
Wout Westerhof – ‘Hirving started out as a right winger and then searched for the shortest route to the goal’, Westerhof tells Voetbal International. ‘Because of his scoring ability, I also let him play for a while as a false striker. But he did too little defensive work at that place. In the end the position of left attacker turned out to be the best for him. Lozano (on photo with former PSV player DaMarcus Beasley, ed.) Really had to learn what to do without a ball in the field. Not only putting the pressure after ball loss, but also making spaces for others and making yourself playable. At first he did not see the need for that, because he was the best in the field. At first he thought I did not like him, because I was so busy with him. While it is the other way around: the greatest talents you have to ask the most.
Wout shared a few photos with me of his teams at Pachuca…don’t be surprised if you see Wout leading a top professional team soon.