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Peter Rufai – Nigeria’s Best Goalkeeper
The history of Nigerian football will not be complete without mentioning the contribution of goalkeeper Peter Rufai. The 47-year-old former Stationary Stores of Lagos shot stopper made history in 1986 when he became the first Nigerian goalkeeper to leave the shores of the country in pursuit of a professional career. He was signed by AS Dragon FC of Benin Republic.
The quiet Rufai is well traveled having played for Belgian club sides – Lokeren and Beveren before making a surprise move to Go Ahead Eagles of Holland in 1993-1994 where he was selected to play for Nigeria at the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Tunisia. . After defeating Zambia in the final, he helped Nigeria lift the coveted trophy for the second time.
His performance at the Africa Cup of Nations earned him a subsequent call-up to the Nigeria team that played in the 1994 FIFA World Cup hosted by the United States of America. As both captain and goalkeeper of the team, he managed to ensure that Nigeria put in a commanding performance in their first ever World Cup outing. The team reached the round of 16 before falling to the more experienced Italians inspired by Roberto Baggio. The match finally ended 2:1 in favor of the Italians.
Peter Rufai fondly called “Dodo Mayana” by his numerous supporters returned to the Super Eagles seat at the 1998 FIFA World Cup hosted by Spain. However, he could not help the team advance to the round of 16 as they were defeated by Denmark in a one-sided encounter played at the Stade de France. Dodo Mayana watched helplessly as the Danes scored four goals behind him.
Incidentally, that match was his very last international appearance for the senior national team before he eventually retired. His best ever performance was with Spanish La Liga outfit Deportivo La Coruna, where he made a name for himself despite backing up Cameroon goalkeeper Jacques Songo for two consecutive seasons.
Peter Rufai currently lives in Nigeria where he organizes football clinics in selected cities to help discover talented goalkeepers. He will be best remembered as one of the best goalkeepers Nigeria has ever had as he earned the respect of other players and the Confederation of African Football who named him CAF’s 10th best goalkeeper of the century. It is noteworthy to mention that Rufai is the only Nigerian goalkeeper mentioned by the African Football Organization.
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