AFCON lessons for Rwanda

Despite South Africa’s current global football standing, Bafana Bafana’s senior fan, President Jacob Zuma counseled the side to over look the critics and put in a good performance in the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations that kicks off this Saturday.
Mansur Kakimba
Mansur Kakimba

Despite South Africa’s current global football standing, Bafana Bafana’s senior fan, President Jacob Zuma counseled the side to over look the critics and put in a good performance in the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations that kicks off this Saturday.

South Africa will be hosting the tournament for the second time.

The rainbow nation first hosted Africa’s greatest showpiece in 1996, only two years after their first ever democratic election and Bafana Bafana went on to win the trophy after beating favourites Tunisia in the final.     

Critics have given Africa’s first World Cup hosts, no chance, citing ill-preparedness and remorseful attention that the country gives to the tournament.

At some point you feel South Africa is taking things for granted—thinking if it is not them then who else can host a big tournament like that one in Africa?

“Critics will always be there, some of them are paid to be critics and they are doing their job. I think we have done our best. Bear in mind that this tournament was supposed to be in Libya, so this tournament was not given the normal time for preparations and people who are making criticism forget that.”

“We had to start very late as a result of that. I am happy and I think we are ready and I think the country is ready. Fortunately, we have the facilities. We might not have done everything precisely because of how we got to host this edition but we are more than ready,” said Zuma.

He encouraged the team not to be disrupted by critics, urging them to balance all areas so as to emulate the 1996 team.

Back home, when Rwanda failed to qualify, critics—castigated the coaching staff, the players, the federation and the Government. Understandably, their (critics) concerns were out of frustration and serialised Amavubi disappointments.

A bit different from what South Africa is accused of, Rwanda’s problem is much bigger. In terms of facilities and organisation, South Africa is miles ahead of its continental counterparts. 

Organising AFCON only 2 years after World Cup is not a cup of tea and I think they deserve credit. What Africa, and Rwanda, in particular, should know is the fact that countries like South Africa do not land these opportunities on silver platter. There are no favours extended whatsoever.

Over the years, South Africa has systematically developed her sports industry through the Department of Sports, Recreation, Art and Culture. Not just only football. Now they are cashing in big time.

Everyone wants to go to South Africa to be part of international sports events organised, golf, football, cricket, rally, swimming etc. They took a 360 approach to develop sports.

They did not develop sports just for entertainment but rather as a sector that would compliment and boost other sectors like tourism.

 They invested massively anticipating returns in the future. The investment is paying off today.

All this was done through a comprehensive national strategy to develop sports.

And they did not just develop, publish, and launch a wonderful national strategy—they owned it, they lived it, they worked hard to achieve the outputs contained.

If you went to the Ministry of Sports and Culture and asked about Rwanda’s strategy to develop sports and culture as an enabler of economic prosperity, I am sure you’ll get half-baked answers.

I am sure these ideas linger in their minds, they keep lamenting about the challenges facing sports in the country, they try a few bits and pieces, they meet to plan year in year out... but fail to connect the dots.

The officials at the Ministry and sports federations receive lots of invitations—to be part of numerous sports galas. Yet you fail to understand the lessons they draw from elsewhere!

What is unfolding in the world of football teaches us many lessons. Among them; it is not just about facilities—Libya, Nigeria, Niger, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia etc, have all the facilities needed to host big tournaments like World Cup, but it up ended in South Africa.

 It is not just about talent—Kipolopolo are defending Champions yet Zambia is not anywhere near to what South Africa has achieved.

It is not about both (talent and facilities)—Super Eagles (of Nigeria) and the Elephants (of Ivory Cost) are complete packages of super talent and the facilities back home are wonderful too, but management of local football lets them down.

With sports, there is true unity in a diversified (culturally) South Africa. With sports, they have managed to attract the biggest international brands.

With sports, they have managed to boost the economy. With sports, they have managed to bring Africa and the entire world to South Africa—and that is the message in the TV Commercials run on Super Sport.

All can’t be perfect, but you can at least see sustainability in whatever they are doing. That is the 360 Business Model I am talking about. Sports stakeholders need to emulate South Africa.

And the key deliverable should be the Rwanda National Sports and Culture Development Strategy. It is only then that we can be sure of going to AFCON, Olympics etc.

 In the meantime, I think the Ministry of Finance should cut their budget on sports activities   because it is simply taxpayer’s money not well spent.


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