Wynton Alan Whai RuferLegendary New Zealand Footballer
- Date of Birth
- December 29, 1962
- Place of Birth
- Wellington, New Zealand
- 1.81 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in)
- Playing Position
Wynton Alan Whai Rufer, CNZM (born 29 December 1962) is a New Zealand retired footballer who played as a striker. He spent more than a decade of his professional career in Switzerland and Germany and achieved thereby with Werder Bremen his greatest accomplishments, winning a total of four major titles. He also appeared for the New Zealand national team in its first FIFA World Cup participation, in 1982. He was named the Oceania Footballer of the Century by the Oceania Football Confederation.
Rufer was born in Wellington to a Swiss father and a New Zealand Māori mother. He affiliates to the Ngāti Porou iwi. After leaving the city’s Rongotai College, he played his first football for Wellington Diamond United, Stop Out and Miramar Rangers.
After being voted New Zealand’s Young Player of the Year in 1981 and 1982, Rufer attracted the attention of Norwich City manager Ken Brown, who invited the player and his older brother Shane Rufer to Norfolk for a trial. He impressed and signed a professional contract on 23 October 1981, becoming the first Kiwi to do so. However, he was denied a work permit to play in England, so he joined Fussballclub Zürich in May of the following year.
Rufer would play in Switzerland in the following seven years, also representing FC Aarau and Grasshopper Club Zürich: whilst at the former, he topped the scoring charts at 21 in the 1987–88 season, helping his club to the fourth place. With the Hoppers, he won the domestic cup, precisely against Aarau, and surpassed the 100-goal mark in his years in the country.
In the 1989 summer, Rufer signed with SV Werder Bremen, coached by Otto Rehhagel. His Bundesliga debut came on 29 July, in a 0–0 draw at FC St. Pauli, and his impact was immediate, as he netted six times in his first 13 league matches. Overall, he would play an enormous part in the side’s achievements, pairing withKlaus Allofs up front: on 6 May 1992, both scored in the final of the season’s UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, in Lisbon (2–0 win against AS Monaco FC).
In the 1992–93 league season, as Werder won the third championship in the club’s history, Rufer finished second in the scoring charts, at 17. On 8 December 1993, he scored two against R.S.C. Anderlecht in the UEFA Champions League, in a 5–3 home win (the Belgian led 3–0 with 25 minutes to go); he finished as that competition’s topscorer, alongside FC Barcelona’s Ronald Koeman, and added his second German Cup.
Rufer was voted Oceania’s Player of the Year in 1989, 1990 and 1992. In 1994–95, the 31-year-old left Bremen and moved to JEF United Ichihara of the J.League, finishing as the club’s leading scorer in his second year. When Rehhagel took on the task of resurrecting 1. FC Kaiserslautern’s fortunes in 1996 – the club would eventually return to the top division, as champions – he called upon Rufer in February 1997, and he contributed with four goals in 14 second division matches.
Rufer returned to his country and successively represented Central United, North Shore United and FC Kingz, retiring at the age of nearly 40. He then founded a football coaching school, WYNRS, which produced football stars such as women’s international Annalie Longo.
With his brother Shane, Rufer took on player-coaching duties at North Shore United in 1998, before coaching the national Under-16 men’s squad ahead of the 1999 Junior World Cup Finals, notably achieving a draw against the Under-16 men’s teams of Austria and win over Norway in an unofficial U-16 World Cup tournament in Nice, France in 1998. He was appointed player-coach of the country’s first professional football team, FC Kingz (later Auckland Kingz), participating in the Australian Soccer League for two seasons before retiring in 2001, having been named Oceania’s Player of the Century ahead of Frank Farina (Australia) and Christian Karembeu (France, of New Caledonia descent).
Made his A-international debut for New Zealand against Kuwait on 16 October 1980 in the friendly international Merdeka Tournament in Malaysia aged 17 years and nine months. Added late to the squad for New Zealand in their World Cup qualification campaign in 1981 and played his first World Cup qualifier on 14 December 1981 against Kuwait, aged 18, scoring in a 2–2 draw for the 1982 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Rufer quickly established himself in the All Whites side. Late in the following year, he netted the 2–1 winner in the decisive playoff against China, which propelled the nation to its first World Cup ever.
In the final stages in Spain, 19-year-old Rufer was the youngest member of the squad, appearing in all three group losses, against Scotland, the Soviet Union and Brazil. In total, he gained 23 full caps, scoring 12 goals. From 1985–89, he only collected a total of five international appearances, namely due to the fact Zürich would not release him; from there until 1996, he did not appear for the national side at all.