By Christian Rizzitelli
When it comes to New Zealand football, few are more qualified to speak than Oceania Footballer of the Century Wynton Rufer. The former Werder Bremen and FC Zurich striker may have retired a decade ago, but remains a major player for football in his homeland.
Rufer is now heavily involved in youth development in New Zealand, with his School of Excellence known as Wynrs becoming a leading program in the Land of the Long White Cloud. The 49-year-old, who was part of New Zealand's squad at the 1982 World Cup but only made 23 senior appearances for his nation, took pride in watching the national team, affectionately known as the All Whites, competing at the 2010 event in South Africa and wants to see it happen more regularly in the future.
However, more recent events have left Rufer concerned, particularly the All Whites failure at the 2012 OFC Nations Cup, where they crashed out at the semifinal stage to New Caledonia, before Tahiti became the first true Pacific Island nation to lift the trophy. Speaking to Goal.com, Rufer discussed that dismal campaign as well as the future of football in New Zealand, including moving into Asia and qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Goal.com: What are your thoughts about New Zealand's poor OFC Nations Cup campaign?
Wynton Rufer: Many people are calling for the coach to be sacked. I spoke with some of the players who toured and they could not understand players being played out of position and also why we used so many young players.
|"Many people are calling for the coach to be sacked. I spoke with some of the players who toured and they could not understand players being played out of position and also why using so many young players"|
Goal.com: Do you think New Zealand should join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in order to improve their game?
WR: Yes and no. Politics would stop us from joining Asia, otherwise our youth teams have almost free way to Fifa Under-17 and U-20 World Cup through Oceania, it would be far more difficult through Asia.
Goal.com: What do you think if New Zealand competed in the Suzuki Cup, a tournament with SouthEast Asia nations (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore etc) every two years? Would it be a good experience on them?
WR: We don't get enough international matches in New Zealand at the moment, so any other competition would sound great for our development.
Goal.com: What do you think about creating a single big confederation with both Asian and Oceanian teams?
WR: It's not for me to decide and the politicians don't normally decide what is best for the game...
Goal.com: How much has the game developed in New Zealand since the past World Cup?
WR: Soccer is at an all time high purely because of the media/ public interest in New Zealand playing at the World Cup. But unfortunately the local football authorities are not very good at taking advantage of it. My academy Wynrs is the way I contribute to the local game but as I said before, it's very difficult in this small market.
|"We have a very good chance of making it again. Some good talents are coming through and players like Winston Reid, Chris Wood, Tommy Smith and Michael Fitzgerald could all play a key role in our chance of going to Brazil"|
Goal.com: Do you think is utopia to see a professional competition in New Zealand in 10 years?
WR: It could be possible, I'm trying to get a Wynrs team to play in the highest local league within three years.
Goal.com: How can young children become involved in football with such a big rugby influence in the country?
WR: Recently football has become the biggest game in New Zealand by far, local sports such as rugby and cricket are no more dominant in the country.
Goal.com: Which are your sensations about New Zealand competing in the next World Cup in Brazil? Do you think they can make it?
WR: My sensations are positive as we have a very good chance of making it again. Some good talents are coming through and players like Winston Reid, Chris Wood, Tommy Smith and Michael Fitzgerald could all play a key role in our chance of going to Brazil.