The history of Nigeria’s football will not be complete without mentioning the contribution of goalkeeper Peter Rufai. The 47 years old former Stationary Stores of Lagos shot stopper made history in 1986 when he became the first Nigerian goalkeeper to move out of the shore of the country in pursuit of his professional career. He was signed by AS Dragon F.C of Benin Republic.
The quiet spoken Rufai is vastly traveled having played for Belgian club sides- Lokeren and Beveren before making a surprise move to Go Ahead Eagles of Holland in the 1993-1994 where he got selected to feature for Nigeria at the 1994 African Nations Cup hosted by Tunisia. He helped Nigeria lift the coveted trophy for a second time after defeat of Zambia in the final.
His performance at the African Nations Cup earned him a subsequent call-up to the Nigeria squad that played in the 1994 FIFA World Cup hosted by the United States of America. As both captain and goalkeeper of the team, he succeeded in ensuring Nigeria gave a commanding performance at her first World Cup outing. The team got to the round of 16, before succumbing to the more experienced Italians who were inspired by Roberto Baggio. The match eventually ended 2-1 in favor of the Italians.
Peter Rufai who was fondly called “Dodo Mayana” by his teeming supporters, returned to man the post for the Super Eagles in 1998 FIFA World Cup hosted by Spain. He could not however help the team scale through the round of 16, as they were battered by Denmark in a one-sided encounter played at the Stade de France. Dodo Mayana watched helplessly as the Danes put four goals behind him.
That match was incidentally his very last international outing for the senior National team before he eventually called it quit. His best ever performance were in the color of Spanish La Liga side- Deportivo La Coruna, where he made a name for himself despite been a back-up to Cameroonian goalkeeper- Jacques Songo’o for two consecutive seasons.
Peter Rufai presently 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 ever had, having earned the respect of fellow players and the Confederation of African Football who named him the 10th best CAF Best Goalkeeper of the century. It is noteworthy to mention that Rufai is the only Nigerian Goalkeeper so mentioned by the African Football body.