New Zealand football legend Wynton Rufer is resting at home and expecting to make a full recovery after having a heart attack – and jokes the only thing likely to give him another is his playful cat.

The 56-year-old also hopes his experience can serve as a warning of how quickly an attack can happen.

He pointed to Spanish football star Andres Iniesta who also raised awareness of the issue by paying tribute to a heart attack victim during the 2010 World Cup.

Deep in extra-time in the Cup final, Iniesta slammed home a last-gasp winner for Spain over Holland, before racing to the sidelines and pulling his shirt up to reveal a T-shirt in memory of fellow player Dani Jarque.


Jarque – a former Spanish under-21 player – died of a heart attack aged 26, during pre-season training for Spanish top-flight club Espanyol.

As for Rufer, his heart stopped without warning on January 6 this year, while he was riding a Lime scooter home to Parnell after watching a Breakers basketball game with a mate.

If it wasn't for his quick-thinking rescuer, Nick Moss, who performed CPR for five minutes before an ambulance arrived, Rufer likely would have died.

"It shows you that even if you are fit, you are never really going to know when a heart attack can hit," Rufer said.

"Now that it has happened - I'm a very positive person, a cup half-full person – and at least it helps to get the message out there.

"People, especially when over 50, need to keep an eye on their health and you need to go see the cardio specialist to get checked out."

Rufer, who became a star for glamour German side Werder Bremen in the 1990s, said doctors expected him to make a full recovery.

He was under orders to take it easy, avoid stress and limit himself to 30-minute walks each day, but was thankful he would be around to spend more time with family and friends and to continue to promote the game of football.


He said he was a healthy eater, non-smoker and fairly fit guy, and there had been no warning before his heart attack.

He passed out while scootering up Parnell Rise and crashed to the ground, luckily without hitting his head.

His friend Florian Wellman's screams for help brought passerby Moss running.

The 35-year-old, who had completed a first aid course three months earlier, performed CPR for five minutes.

When paramedics arrived, it took three shocks to restart Rufer's heart.

The former All White spent a week in hospital after doctors operated, using stents to open-up two small blockages to his heart.

"The crazy thing is I felt nothing and just collapsed. Imagine if I was driving down the motorway - I could have passed out and had a head-on and killed myself or someone else," he said.

Doctors suspected genetic causes and stress were factors in Rufer's heart attack; his mum had a triple bypass operation when she was 52.

To avoid another heart attack, Rufer, who was named Oceania Footballer of the Century by the Oceania Football Confederation and played for the All Whites in the 1982 World Cup, will have to pull back on his international travel - he visited 13 countries last year.

He said he'll also be careful while helping out at a three-day football camp in Auckland this month, which gives Kiwi kids the chance to win a trip to Germany to run on the ground during a German Bundesliga game.

The only thing he will have to watch out for is his affectionate cat.

As a Maine Coon, one of the largest domestic breeds in the world, Rufer described it as a 17kg "monster", that keeps him company on the couch and doesn't like to let him out of its sight.

So much so that when Rufer returned from a short walk last week, he almost had another heart palpitation when he caught glimpse of a large shape bounding at him.

"I almost got a fright because it was the blooming cat running out of the bushes to welcome me home."

Not what the doctor ordered.