BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Former Nigeria goalkeeper, Peter Rufai was not in the good books of Coach Clemens Westerhof who this Sunday, 3 May 2020 clocks 80.
Nigeria needed a draw in what was Westerhof’s first official match as manager when the Super Eagles faced Cameroon in Yaoundé in August 1989.
Nigeria lost the game 1-0 and Rufai was shut out of the team from August 1989 until February 27, 1993 when he was in goal in a 2-0 defeat of Congo at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu.
There were 25 matches before Westerhof decided to field Rufai in goal. The Dutchman said he was glad that the man who later became Nigeria’s on field captain at the USA ’94 World Cup was among his former players who came to honour him at his 74th birthday celebration in Lagos in 2014.
He also spoke about how Rufai broke into his team. Pointing at the former Nigerian goalkeeper who was one of the trio of the class of 1994 that came to his modest birthday party, Westerhof said he first looked disdainfully at him when Rufai broke into his camp to proclaim himself as Nigeria’s number one.
I asked the team doctor (Dr Akin Amao) whether all was well with the player. Rufai told him he would be back in 14 days to the camp.
“I think Rufai went into the fitness room and when he came back in two weeks, what I saw was unbelievable.