Connect with us

Nigerian Football

Peter Rufai, MKO Abiola’s birthday mate clocks 60 today

Published

on

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Former Nigeria captain and goalkeeper, Peter Rufai has joined the Diamond  Jubilee Club as he clocks 60 years today.

Coincidentally, he shares the 24 August birthday with Africa’s greatest ever known philanthropist, Bashorun MKO Abiola who would have been 86 today if he were alive.

Rufai will be marking his 60th birthday anniversary in a couple of day’s time and the highpoint of it will be the unveiling of a book on the Nigerian football legend.

It is written by famous Nigerian sports journalist and academician, Dr. Mumini  Alao.

Advertisement

The power-packed programme is slated for the first week of September.

Easily the most flamboyant Nigerian national team goalkeeper and perhaps the first to venture abroad, Rufai was a trojan at the goal post.

With 62 international appearances for Nigeria,  he established himself as a fine successor to Emmanuel Okala and Best Ogedegbe.

He ranked close to Muda Lawal, Austin Okocha and Stephen Keshi in the number of appearances for the national team.

Rufai was a creative goalkeeper whose sharp reflexes and long reach enabled him to make difficult saves.

Advertisement

   Peter Rufai (r) as Nigeria’s skipper at the USA ‘94 World Cup meets the legendary Diego Maradona in pre match formality ahead of their Group D clash in Foxboro.

His major attribute lay in his ability to stop penalty kicks. In 1981 when he had his first international experience with Super Stores in the African Winners’ Cup, Rufai was instrumental to the club’s saves against A.S. Benghazi in Tripoli, CAPS United of Zimbabwe in Lagos and Union Sportive of Douala in Yaoundé.

Some of his most spectacular saves were in 1983 at Rabat, Morocco. Rufai saved two penalty kicks to give Nigeria a 5-3 win in the last qualifying match for 1984 Africa Cup of Nations.

It was that game that shot him into international prominence. His other penalty saves were in the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations against Egypt, 1988 Africa Cup of Nations match against Algeria and in 1994 against Cote d’Ivoire. All were semi-final matches.

One of his greatest disappointments in the national team was a 1985 World Cup-tie against Tunisia in Tunis. Rufai kept a clean slate in Lagos where Nigeria managed a 1-0 win. Back in Tunis, the North Africans nullified the goal in 30 minutes.

Advertisement

Peter Rufai could not understand what happened on the fateful night of 20 July  1985.

He was no doubt badly protected by his defenders. Rufai clad in his famous yellow shirt and black trousers almost shouted himself hoarse.

His worst outing was at the France ’98 World Cup where he was a last minute inclusion into the Nigerian team. No doubt, the goalkeeper was the weak link of the disorganised Nigerian defence.

But Peter Rufai had his excuses. He  said that he was compelled to join the Nigerian squad despite not being prepared mentally and physically for the tournament.

When the 1997/98 season was finishing, Rufai said he was planning to go on holiday in Cuba and had stayed out late at a disco party before he got his call up to the national squad. At France ’98, Rufai came under heavy criticism following Nigeria’s 4-1 loss to Denmark. It was the heaviest tally Rufai conceded in any full international.

Advertisement

As a goalkeeper, he scored a goal for Nigeria when he converted a penalty for the Super Eagles in a 6-0 defeat of Ethiopia during the last qualifying game for Tunisia ’94 Africa Cup of Nations.

He became the first Nigerian goalkeeper abroad when he crossed the border to guide the goal post for Dragon FC of Republic of Benin in 1986.

Two years earlier, he  left Stationery Stores after four seasons with the club to join a less-fancied Femo Scorpions in a rural town of Eruwa. After four years in Benin Republic, Rufai joined the Belgium trek and signed for Lokeren in the 1989/90 season.

He featured for a couple of clubs in Europe, among which are Beveren (Belgium), Go Ahead Eagles (Holland), Farense (Portugal), Hercules (Spain), Deportivo La Coruña (Spain) and Gil Vicente (Portugal). His most successful spell was with the Portuguese team, Farense.

His spectacular form in the club made Rufai to be acknowledged as the best goalkeeper in Portugal. He was with the club for two seasons and started in 26 matches in the 1994/95 season. In the following season he featured in 23 games for the Portuguese club before joining the Spanish side, Hercules and then Deportivo La Coruña in the 1997/98 season.

Advertisement

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

Nigerian Football

Osimhen’s outburst was a moment of madness, says Amaju

Published

on

Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President and a  FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has expressed shock at last month’s outburst by Super Eagles’ striker, Victor Osimhen against Finidi George.

“It is very unfortunate”, Amaju Pinnick remarked on an Arise Television programme. The former NFF president said he had put a call to Osimhen who was very remorseful while the telephone conversation lasted.

  “I told him he has to apologise, and I am sure he will if he has not yet done so.” Amaju remarked that he could not comprehend what went wrong as Osimhen was the most cool-headed player in the national team.

He went on to remark that Finidi George was not a personality to be disregarded like that. He has won virtually every honour available during his playing days and was a member of the Super Eagles at their peak when Nigeria ranked fifth in the world.

“I believe players should learn to respect their coaches”, said the former NFF boss.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Nigerian Football

I prefer a foreign coach for the Super Eagles, says Amaju

Published

on

Nigeria’s FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has told the world that he has always been an advocate of foreign coaches for the Super Eagles. He spoke on Arise Television while fielding questions with Reuben Abati, Rufai Oseni and Ayo Mairo-Ese. 

His reason for being averse to indigenous  coaches stemmed from lack of respect for them by the players.

“Yes, the Nigerian coaches have the requisite knowledge and the technical ability, but modern football is beyond that in managing players.

“Will the national team players respect the coach? The sad thing is that they don’t”, said Amaju Pinnick.

 He however revealed that he supported the appointment of Finidi George owing to the circumstances that the NFF found itself after the exit of Jose Peseiro.

Advertisement

 The NFF, he revealed, had no money to hire a foreign coach. The body therefore went for the most available option, Finidi to ensure a smooth transition.

 “Finidi was part of the coaching crew of Peseiro and it was therefore logical to ask him to continue.

Continue Reading

Nigerian Football

NFF to train referees on VAR

Published

on

Application of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR)  may soon be introduced into Nigeria’s domestic football competitions.

This is deduced from the statement of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Ibrahim Gusau while addressing the annual general meeting of the Nigeria Premier League.

He also disclosed plans by the federation to train Nigerian referees on the application Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Gusau revealed that  NFF had already secured the communication gadget that the referees will use during matches.

“We have to train the personnel that will manage the VAR now. We have selected some of the referees that we are to start training.

Advertisement

It is not a training of one day, one month or two months; it is a training that will take a little bit of time. After the training they have to go on practical training on the VAR system by going out while some matches are ongoing to see how they can manage it. But when we are sure we have the personnel that can manage it in the next one or two years, we will start to see how we can use VAR in our system,” Gusau said.

He also said that the federation intends to make the league attractive by discouraging Nigerian players from joining other lesser glamourous African clubs without established football pedigree.

Continue Reading

Most Viewed