A good friend of mine and an ardent soccer fan, Dr. Joseph Kamugisha, recently approached me with a great idea of re-establishing his football academy.
His idea is to pick young raw talent from homes and streets, lock them up in a house, feed them, train them day-in-day-out and scout for sponsorships.
And, who knows, may be in future the academy would be able to trade them to big national league clubs.
We did all the legal requirements, wrote a project plan and hit the road to sample a few possible sponsors. It was bizarre! I noticed that there was hardly any excitement among Rwandan top corporates.
May be the top managers are, but at least not the budget Managers—Sponsorships and Marketing Heads.
If you have been reading and following closely the sports news in the New Times, almost all Primus League Clubs have issues.
No single club can pass the litmus test on; managerial, technical and financial issues. Even the seemingly big sides are just taking advantage of a struggling lot.
Football is such a technical game, in that a failure in one of the 3 areas directly affects the entire cycle. I say club football is in great danger because I have not seen a local club with Practices, Policies and Procedures (PPP) or call it systems that are professionally embedded in players, managers, coaches and fans.
I say this because I had the opportunity to visit some South African top clubs recently like Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, and believe me we’re way off the curve.
The big lesson I have for the local clubs is that professional football is more than just a good player or the best coach.
It is a package of ingredients centred on three aspects; management, technical and financial abilities. And, they all mutually relate to each other.
As I laboured to convince one lady sponsorship manager of a telecom, she scornfully listened to my pitching magic…I realised she had a negative but a well founded perception about local football.
She said: “Okay, if I sponsored and a star emerges from your football academy and is bought by Kiyovu …what next?
Who will he become that is different from the ones I see in Biryogo who shine for a season or two and phase out beyond even recognition”.
In South Africa, I realised that top clubs there have policies that nurture their stars during and after a football career. I learnt that all coaching staff are professionals that undergo the rigors of recruitment and testing.
Terms of service for managers are very clear and are performance based. The same goes for players.
When managers or players underperform, they are penalised or fired under legal and straightforward procedures.
That is on the managerial side.
On the financial side, I learnt that a football club is managed basing on principles of business management.
I learnt that it is not by coincidence that clubs like Kaizer Chiefs own private (commercial) TVs and Radios and distinctively report profits to the Board of the club on an annual basis—they have diversified revenue sources—and are not relying on just member subscriptions and sponsorships.
As clubs, that is how they manage to invest in their own facilities like stadiums, shuttles, fitness centres, players and staff apartments etc.
That’s how they manage to sustainably fund players and staff welfare. On the technical side, players are subject to thorough testing almost every day to check on their fitness and bodily and mental health levels.
Discipline of players is closely observed. Career guidance master is one of the busiest coaching staff because a good football player eventually becomes a star.
Stars are role models. Lucas Redebe an Ambassador for the Fight Against Malaria inspires many South African children.
Go to Biryogo, Nyamirambo and see our “stars” lives—you will be amazed. Having a complete player and a complete club necessitates professionalism at all levels.
As the saying goes; “Good wine needs no bush”, sponsors will come automatically. Even the corporate world will start investing (in) and sponsoring football.
Even crowds will fill up the stands at premium entry ticket price. Until professionalism comes to club football in Rwanda, the number one sport in the world is in danger.