Relegated or not, how will history judge SC Kiyovu?


It was a heartbreaking moment for Kiyovu players as they failed to save the sleeping giants from relegation on the final day of the season. / Sam Ngendahimana

You can call me a hater, which I’m not or just cynical but I was and remain strongly against the idea of SC Kiyovu returning to play in the topflight division league despite being relegated last season.

The Nyamirambo-based club ‘bounced back’ on technical ground, without even kicking a ball in the lower league following a decision by the management of newly promoted Isonga FC to pull out of playing in the Azam Rwanda Premier League on the pretext that, the youthful side is ‘not was formed to play in the first division.’

This suggestion is very weak at best and weird at worst!

In sports leagues, promotion and relegation is a process where teams are transferred between two divisions based on their performance for the concluded season.

Under normal circumstances, for every particular season, the worst-ranked team(s) in the higher division are relegated to the lower division for the next season and the best-ranked team(s) in the lower division are promoted to the higher division.

And in the last campaign, Pepiniere FC and SC Kiyovu were the worst in the Azam Rwanda Premier League, while Miroplast FC and Isonga were the best in the second division.

Pepiniere FC, who finished bottom and SC Kiyovu just above them, registered less than 10 league wins between them the whole season, with the later managing six and three for the former who were making their league debut.

And indeed, for all reasons, right or wrong, all the hullabaloo was about Kiyovu, now (or then) a fallen giant, who were dropping to the second tier division for only the first time their 53-year history.

Some talked about a ‘dark day’ not only for the club but Rwandan football in general, to see a club of Kiyovu status, going down and to make matter even worse, without hope that they will make an immediate come back—it all looked bleak for the three-time league champions.

For a club built on a foundation of loyal supporters, who can be traced in different part of the world, news of Kiyovu’s relegation reached every continent, which tells you all that you need to know about one of the oldest clubs in Rwanda.

“I have never felt so bad all my life; it’s unbelievable that my team will play in the second division next season, but hopefully we shall be able to come back at the first attempt, we shall never forget this day,” said one elderly Kiyovu fan, who could not hold back tears at the end of the final game of the season.

Ironically, the final game was against their eternal rivals Rayon Sports, who were by then already champions and didn’t really need to win but they still did 2-1, which was the final nail in Kiyovu’s coffin.

Truth be told, Kiyovu, under their veteran coach Aloys Kanamugire, were so poor all season and no one can say, losing the last game was the reason for their relegation—the writing was clearly on the wall for most part of the second half of the season.

Despite the fact that only the top six scored more goals, Kiyovu had the 3rd worst defence in the 16-team league, only better than Gicumbi FC that finished just a point above them in the table, and Pepiniere, who spent all season at the bottom.

With the future looking pretty much uncertain, Kiyovu fans had tasted the cruelty of the beautiful game and accepted the bitter true that now they had every reason to start following the second divison more closely. For their beloved club, the obituary had been written.

And then, all of a sudden, rumors or call them unconfirmed reports, started making rounds that newly promoted Isonga FC were planning to withdrawal from playing in the topflight division league.

That’s when further rumors, which later turned out to be true, came into the mix that Kiyovu would be the beneficially.

As a cricket player, I look at the decision by the management of Isonga FC, as a well-calculated move to give one of the giants of Rwandan football, a second life in the ‘big time’ league.

In cricket, when a fielder misses an opportunity to get out a batsman, we say, he (batsman or woman) has been given a second life, and more often than not, those players tend to go on to have good if not outstanding moments on the crease.

In the sport of cricket, the crease is a certain area demarcated by white lines painted or chalked on the field of play, and pursuant to the rules of cricket they help determine legal play in different ways for the fielding and batting side.

On that basis, should we expect or at least hope that SC Kiyovu, having been handed a ‘second life’, will go on and prove that they belong to the topflight division and that last season was simply an accident?

And also, will history judge them as a having been relegated or not? In reality Kiyovu were relegated but technically not since they never kicked a ball in the second division and instead will be part of the first next season just as they have been since 1964.