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‘The talent is here’: Wynton Rufer

Monday 20 February 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Football, Sports


‘The talent is here’: Wynton Rufer
New Zealand football great Wynton Rufer. TIM MEYER/23021923

New Zealand football great Wynton Rufer is back on the island to run more grassroots coaching sessions to help develop the sport in the Cook Islands.

Rufer, who spent 16 years playing professional football in Switzerland, Germany, Japan and New Zealand, ran several sessions with primary school children last week.

The focus of his visit is development of young female players in lead up to the Women’s World Cup being hosted by New Zealand and Australia in July this year.

“I’m back in the Cook Islands coaching with boys and girls mainly the girls because of the Women’s World Cup this July so there is an amazing opportunity for all the girls in the Cook Islands and I’m here to coach and build a youth development programme together with CIFA (Cook Islands Football Association),” Rufer said.

“It’s just wonderful to know all these amazing schools with so much incredible talent.”

On Friday he took a morning session with students from Apii Nikao.

“There are some really talented girls who can kick with both feet, pass and shoot – so this is just start of a long-term project that we want to make happen on the island,” Rufer said.

“We have been pretty much to all primary schools on this island this whole week (last week).”

Rufer ran his first grassroots coaching session in Rarotonga in November last year.

“I came for the first time in November of last year after originally been here three years ago but because of Covid things were put on the backburner but now we are back in full action here in the Cook Islands.

“I will be back in about a month to go to Aitutaki and I’m looking forward to this amazing opportunity.”

Rufer’s key goal is to identify talent and help nurture them to become top footballers.

He coached Chris Wood, New Zealand professional footballer who plays as a striker for Premier League club Nottingham Forest, when he was seven to 15 years old.

“You have to really work at that grassroots level to just keep that inspiration going, teaching them to kick with both feet, to juggle the ball, to have a good ball control and of course to put the ball in the net … we could do it here in Cook Islands with the boys and girls and qualify for FIFA Youth World Cups, it’s possible, the talent is here.”

Rufer’s dream is shared with Tim Meyer, who has been organising the former footballer’s visit for around two years, which has been delayed due to Covid-19.

Meyer, who’s originally from Germany, is a big fan and used to save his pocket money to watch Rufer play for his home club.

The contact between the two began after Meyer sent Rufer a message on Facebook hearing he was in Rarotonga for a holiday. A month later, Meyer got a response, after a bit of chat Rufer said he was keen to run a grassroots training programme for young boys and girls aged six to 10.  

Rufer won four major titles playing for German club Werder Bremen and also played for the 1982 All Whites that made it the FIFA World Cup in Spain.

He will run more coaching sessions this week before departing on Thursday.