Bravo Ntagwabira for revealing the ugly side of local football

I must take this opportunity to applaud Jean Marie Ntagwabira, for not only resigning when things weren’t going well as Rayon Sport head Coach, but revealing the existence of corruption in Rwandan football.
Jean Marie Ntagwabira shocked the local football fraternity with his match-fixing revelations. The New Times  / File.
Jean Marie Ntagwabira shocked the local football fraternity with his match-fixing revelations. The New Times / File.

I must take this opportunity to applaud Jean Marie Ntagwabira, for not only resigning when things weren’t going well as Rayon Sport head Coach, but revealing the existence of corruption in Rwandan football.

The Amavubi Stars assistant coach recently shocked the local football fraternity by confusing to being involved in match-fixing during his time as Kiyovu coach in 2009.  The sad reality is that our football is doomed if we don’t go down the roots and unearth the nasty dealings conducted behind the doors. Something needs to be done to end the irregularities involved in Rwanda’s football.

People will never understand why we don’t have a strong national team, until they get to know the reality of what transpires in the teams’ success and failures.

I got a very horrible first hand experience when I tried to follow up the development of Rwamagana Football Club in the second division league.

As a resident of the area, I picked interest in the team, because I love soccer. But I am sure no one would love to go through my experience with the league, the team owners, coaches, referees as well as FERWAFA officials.

By following the team at a close range, I realised you cannot succeed in local football, unless you are ready and willing to bribe match officials, and also get the right witchdoctor to ‘blind’ your rival team. This attitude left me baffled.

Can you imagine that players are told to go through funny rituals, typical of what most of you have only seen in African movies, particularly in West African countries believed to be the main ‘Powers of Juju’ on the continent.

One day, I asked one player who looked tired, before a scheduled match, what was going on with him.

The young man shocked me with his reply.

“Look! I never slept...the coach told me to put three raw eggs in fire and wait until they were burnt to ashes. This took me up to past mid-night! The ash was sprayed on each player before the match. I am tired and yet I am expected to perform well on the pitch...,” said the rather dismayed player.

What about Ntagwabira’s confession on match-fixing? Should one believe him? In fact, Ntagwabira’s disclosure reminds me of one of the renowned playwright Prof. Francis Imbuga’s words in his book ‘Betrayal in the City’.

He opines that “When the madness of the entire nation disturbs a solitary mind...it’s not enough to say that a man is mad.”

Probably Ntagwabira is tired and actually wants to see things change, which is why he said what most never expected. He is a football man ready to change, and needs everyone’s help after his confession.

Silence against evil is accomplice; it would only continue to affect the game loved by the majority of Rwandans.

It is time to expose the few corrupt and irresponsible partners at all levels so as to make a positive step in developing the beautiful game in the land of a thousand hills.

Can we develop a strong national team?

The answer is yes. But the problem is, there is no debate on how a national team can be slowly but surely established. We can surely get a national team when we play only Rwandans in the second division. But do we do it? We don’t, even though it is clearly stipulated in FERWAFA rules.

Rwamagana City FC again offers a typical example, particularly when it launched its complaint against Gasabo FC, which had used non Rwandan players.

In fact (Rwamgana City FCs) was left crying foul play as it was accused by some of trying to do what everyone did without knowing how it was done.

I won’t go into what transpired, for records are there for the interested to find out.

But the bottom line is that the team which allegedly used foreign players was neither reprimanded nor handled according to the rules and regulations that govern the league. So, in the long run, you fail to understand whether we are really focused.

 Some of these second division teams are supported by districts, so we expect them to promote young talented Rwandan players to the highest level possible.

Teams are also challenged to use football in mobilising the youth against crimes induced by their age that include among others, the use of drugs. But do they do it? I highly doubt.

There is need for strong football academies, we need serious coaches, managers and officials, who can rise above all these irregularities of corruption and witchcraft in the name of winning football matches.

It’s high time we stopped blaming coaches whenever our national team doesn’t perform.

Things go wrong starting at the lowest level and there will never be any meaningful change when the same individuals supposed to develop the game in fair manner are the one driving us into darkness by either accepting money in return of a favour or giving a blind eye when irregularities happen around them.

What is not tolerated in any other institution in this country shouldn’t be allowed in football, that’s why Ntagwabira’s revelation should open the Pandora’s box for all football loving Rwandans.

 

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