With exactly a week before the 2012/2013 national football league season kicks off, fans are contemplating what the new season might bring; a new champion or APR continuing their dominance?
After about three months of near redundancy, local soccer pundits can’t wait to doing what they love to do best. Of course I will not be surprised if some club performances are deterred by the financial drama that we are now used to.
Interestingly, Espoir’s immediate return to the top flight division without kicking a ball in the second tier at the expense of Nyanza FC that withdrew from the league provides the initial talking point of what promises to be a tight contest for the top prize.
It will be interesting to see how the new boys of Muhanga and Musanze handle themselves against the big boys at the very top end of Rwandan club football.
However, more surprising was Rayon Sport relocating to Nyanza, at which point my ears almost tore themselves off my head:
As the league kick off gets nearer, I will make a preview of all the 14 teams, starting with the top three clubs and the genuine title contenders, APR, Police and Rayon Sport.
Undoubtedly outstanding, yes, very much so: The Army side supremacy will continue but it will not be easy to defend the League and Peace-Cup titles.
Pressure is there always for the defending champions, but nothing like the previous campaign when Police FC were a genuine threat until they folded when the league title looked theirs to lose.
There seems to be a much more relaxed atmosphere around for APR this season especially after releasing a host of foreign players and replacing them with young Rwandan players.
And even without the so called foreign big names, the defending champions will still be odds on to easily win a record 14th league title. I hardly see any team giving new coach Eric Nshimiyimana and his new-look side a real run for their money, but only if he has sufficient magic in his hands to implementing new ideas.
Few things will change at APR, who are well equipped with wealth, which means they can afford to pay Isonga’s top players as well as any other good Rwandan from any of their rivals to replace the released foreigners.
However, the biggest question remains with their CAF Champions’ League and Cecafa/Kagama Cup performances, a clear reason why the club refused to renew Ernest Brandt’s contract.
If the 13-times Rwandan league winners’ performances in continental competitions as well as in the region in the last couple of seasons is anything to go by, one can only wonder how things will be like when the team will be composed of less experienced and young players, most especially if APR plan to do well in next year’s Champions’ League and Kagame Cup.
The Law and Order enforcers will surely need to use next season to recuperate from a traumatic 2011/2012 campaign. Having topped the table for almost three-quarters of last season, victory slipped through their hands, just.
Police FC have tasted two MTN- Peace Cup finals in the last two seasons only to lose to APR on both occasions.
Goran Kapunovic’s team played really well last season and knew how to grind results even when playing badly, but got disillusioned conceivably by the dramatic decision by Ferwafa to reschedule their match against Isonga and then the last minute loses to Marines and Mukuru respectively.
Their transfer market has been a mixed- bag; selling iconic captain Meddie Kagera. Dampened by his departure, Kapunovic must find a replacement of similar quality but it won’t be that easy.
If Police can manage to start off from where they left last season, they stand a good chance to hold off the threat of their ultra-ambitious, most successful rivals APR, who remain the team to beat every season.
Always known for moaning loudest at every available opportunity and being their own self-destructors to their road to success, Rwanda’s most supported football club flatter to deceive every the other season.
Much as re-locating to Nyanza their original home base, the Blues will keep on struggling if they don’t find a lasting solution to their seemingly unending problems, most of them self-inflicted.
But now that Nyanza District has taken over the team, starting with the upcoming season, one can only assume that the financial problems will be a thing of the past and that Rayon can start to be considered really title contenders than pretenders.
For obvious reasons, Rwandan football needs a stable and successful Rayon Sport, and with them relocating back to their ancestral home and APR being somewhat ‘weakened’ by the decision to release almost all foreign players, next season could be a breakthrough for Gikundiro.
To be continued…..