Discuss The Origin And Development Of Professional Football In Nigeria Peter Rufai – Nigeria’s Best Goalkeeper

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Peter Rufai – Nigeria’s Best Goalkeeper

The history of Nigerian football would not be complete without mentioning the contribution of goalkeeper Peter Rufai. The 47-year-old former Stationery Stores shot stopper from Lagos created history in 1986 when he became the first Nigerian goalkeeper to leave the country’s shores to pursue his professional career. He was signed by AS Dragon FC of Benin Republic.

The quietly spoken Rufai traveled extensively playing for Belgian club sides- Lokeren and Beveren before a surprise move to Go Ahead Eagles of Holland in 1993-1994 where he was selected for Nigeria at the 1994 African Nations Cup hosted by Tunisia. . He helped Nigeria lift the prestigious trophy for the second time after defeating Zambia in the final.

His performances at the African Nations Cup later earned him a place in the Nigeria squad that played in the 1994 FIFA World Cup hosted by the United States of America. As the team’s captain and goalkeeper, he was able to ensure that Nigeria excelled in its maiden World Cup. The team reached the round of 16 before succumbing to the more experienced Italian inspired by Roberto Baggio. Eventually the match ended 2-1 in favor of the Italians.

Peter Rufai who was nicknamed “Dodo Mayana” by his large supporters returned to the post for the Super Eagles in the 1998 FIFA World Cup hosted by Spain. He was unable to help the team reach 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.

The match was his last international appearance for the senior national team before he eventually quit the team. His best performance so far was in the colors of Spanish La Liga side- Deportivo La Coruna, where he made a name for himself despite being the back-up to Cameroonian goalkeeper- Jacques Songo for two consecutive seasons.

Peter Rufai currently resides in Nigeria, where he holds football clinics in selected cities to help find talented goalkeepers. He will be best remembered as one of Nigeria’s best ever goalkeepers, who commanded the respect of fellow players and was named the 10th best CAF goalkeeper of the century by the Confederation of African Football. It is worth noting that Rufai is the only Nigerian goalkeeper to be mentioned by the African football body.

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