Nshimiyimana thrown in the lion’s den

Now that Eric Nshimiyimana has finally been trusted to lead the Rwanda national team as the head coach but without a contract, what does this mean to him, his technical staff, the players and the fans?
Hamza Nkuutu
Hamza Nkuutu

Now that Eric Nshimiyimana has finally been trusted to lead the Rwanda national team as the head coach but without a contract, what does this mean to him, his technical staff, the players and the fans?

The former Rwandan international midfielder takes over from his former boss Milutin Micho Sredojovic, who was sacked this week, but the down side to his appointment is the ambiguity of his contract, if indeed he signed any.

According to the Minister of Sports and Culture, Protais Mitali, whose ministry oversees the appointment and remuneration of Amavubi coaches, Nshimiyimana and his assistant Jean Baptist Kayiranga will be assessed on a game-par-game basis. Whatever that means!

For so long, Rwandans have campaigned for their own to be given the opportunity to coach the national team, since the foreigners, who are hired on very expensive contracts don’t offer anything different from.

It’s not only Rwanda but majority of African teams have a preference for foreign coaches over the locals and as a consequence, African coaches end up losing the self confidence to perform at the highest level.

It’s true that foreign coaches in general have helped instill discipline within African national teams ever since football was introduced on the continent by European missionaries.

Perennial debate

In many cases African football associations believe in European coaches more than they do their own, which is why European coaches have dominated touchlines over the years.

Their stance has sparked debate almost every year when it becomes necessary to seek a replacement for national team coaches.

Undoubtedly, foreign coaches have helped to develop the game in Africa and tend to even go further in international competitions than natives in charge of their own national sides.

Only a few African coaches have lived up to expectations in modern times, with Egypt’s Hassan Shehata coming to mind as an example of local success.

Africans need to train their own coaches for bigger stages, and so the appointment of Nshimiyimana and Kayiranga should be the start of the end of reliance on foreign coaches, who in most cases, don’t have any knowledge on football in the countries they get employed.

I have always been of the view that African coaches must be accorded the same support as their foreign counterparts to prove their worth at any given time.

I think it is a norm in Africa that foreign coaches are for World Cup and locals are for Africa Cup and now CHAN which has led some to believe that Africans are not good enough.

It is important that African coaches are given the necessary attention and sufficient motivation to be able to do the job.

In the run-up to Africa Cup of Nations 2013 in South Africa, Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi criticised African football associations for their preference for white coaches.

Keshi told BBC Sport that white coaches are not doing anything that African coaches cannot do. “I am not a racist but that’s just the way it is.”

Keshi, who was piped to the Amavubi job by Micho, added that African FAs favour European coaches over Africans, “You tell a white person they need a year to adapt, to know the country and the players–they are told ‘don’t worry, take your time.’ That is unprofessional and is one thing that is killing African football.”

Keshi went to prove that African can do even a better job than their white counterparts by leading the Super Eagles to the African title for the first time since 1994.

Most African coaches have become experts at the junior level, where they win success, but put them in charge of the senior side and they often disappoint.

Just an example, Sellas Tetteh was hailed all over Africa in 2009 by becoming the first African to win the Fifa Under-20 World Cup (in Egypt) after having won the African version a few months before in Kigali.

Rwanda immediately gave him a well deserved promotion to be in charge of the first senior national team, but he failed miserably—he is now back with Ghana’s U-20 team.

They need support

So, coming back to our very own dynamic duo of Nshimiyimana and Kayiranga, it will be interesting to see how they are supported in their assignment to qualify Rwanda for CHAN 2014 in South Africa as well as the remaining three 2014 World Cup qualifying matches.

Having been around the national team for most of his adult life, first as player, assistant coach, interim coach and now permanent coach, one would believe that Nshimiyimana has cultivated enough knowledge to help him do a decent job, at least until we hire another foreign coach.

Since his retirement from playing in 2005, the 40-year old has worked along side most of the European coaches to have worked in Rwanda both at APR and the national team, and now that he has been trusted to be his own boss on the touchline, it’s up to him to prove his critics wrong.


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