Sport: Wynton Rufer trying to develop winning culture in PNG
Former New Zealand football international and Oceania's Player of the 20th Century is now coaching the Papua New Guinea senior and Under 20s teams, and striving to develop a winning culture among a group that have never won anything.
Oceania Player of the Century, Wynton Rufer, says there is no shortage of footballing talent in Papua New Guinea but developing a winning mentality is proving a challenge.
Having been overlooked for coaching roles in New Zealand, Rufer was headhunted by the PNG Football Association last year to take charge of their national teams.
He is currently preparing the PNG Under 20s for the Oceania Championship later this month and told Vinnie Wylie he's trying to instill some belief in his players.
WYNTON RUFER: They've got outstanding talent. What they're missing is professional structures and experience and having to take their players away from the country to go and visit other countries and see what's really happening on the international football scene. Just coming to New Zealand, for instance, with the Under 19 PNG team - half of them have got a passport for the first time, three-quarters of the 20-man squad are travelling overseas for the first time. It's a complete culture shock for them and we saw that in the result against New Zealand last Wednesday, where we got hammered 12-1, but they were just like little girls running around playing against men because they were so intimidated.
VINNIE WYLIE: Is that one of your key focuses - trying to get their confidence up and get them believing in themselves?
WR: They've never won anything so now you're trying to take them to Fiji where there's five other teams and the winning team will get to the FIFA Under 20 World Cup next year so for all of Oceania it's an incredible opportunity that Oceania now can have two teams qualifying for the World Cup. And [it's been a challenge] trying to make them believe that we can win because we can but it's going to be really challenging and it's been great to have this two weeks in New Zealand. And then we get another week in Fiji before the tournament starts, but I guess the real fruits of this labour will probably take a good two years before you can really see the real difference.
VW: So are you involved with the senior national team as well?
WR: Yeah well that was the main reason why [PNG Football Association and Oceania Football President] David Chung asked me to be involved because PNG are hosting the Pacific Games next year.
VW: You have your academy [in Auckland] and you deal with players there but actually having this team that is yours, are you enjoying having a team of your own like this again?
WR: I must admit it's been really enjoyable. It's no secret that in the last years I've got my name forward and applied for all the jobs at New Zealand Football: Under 17s, Under 20s - even the women's football [and] the All Whites - but I've never been even given an interview, so it's quite ironic how it's all turned out. Those are the teams that I really wanted to coach - funny this I'm now helping a Pacific Island nation, but hey, look, beggars can't be choosers and that's your sort of tall poppy New Zealand way but that's life. I've got an incredible passion for the beautiful game so I just keep moving that ball forward.
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