Two years ago, Rwandans were in celebratory mood after the national team ‘Amavubi’ reached the quarter-finals of 2016 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) as hosts.
This without any doubt was Rwanda’s best performance at any CAF competition; with this victory, we all got the impression that domestic football, especially at the club level, had finally put its act together since the tournament is only for home-based players.
Actually better display was even expected by our local clubs in CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup thereafter.
I remember that time telling one of my friends, a radio pundit, that we were on course for a possible appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations finals tournament, where Rwanda last featured 14 years ago.
However, as things turn out year in year out, all seems not to be well, in local football clubs. This is at least regardless of what may or may not happen to Rwanda’s top two clubs, APR FC and Rayon Sports this weekend.
Azam Rwanda Premier League defending champions Rayon Sports drew goalless with South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the CAF Champions League first round, first leg on March 7 at Amahoro National Stadium.
On Saturday (today), Rayon Sports will attempt to become the first Rwandan team reach the group stage of Africa’s premier club football competition.
The Blues will face Sundowns, the 2016 African champions, on Sunday evening – at 7pm – at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. For Rayon to progress, they will need to win or secure a scoring draw against Pitso Masomane’s ‘Brazilians.’
As for APR FC, playing in the CAF Confederation Cup, the task is bit easier, at least on paper, to defeat visitors Djoliba AC de Bamako of Mali, by at least a 2-0 goal margin to progress to the next round.
However, if previous escapades for Rwandan clubs in CAF competitions are anything to go by, then, both Rayon Sports and APR, have a huge challenge ahead for them.
So, just why do Rwandan clubs keep failing at the continental level? This is really becoming a very boring question.
It is high time local clubs upped their game by becoming a little more professional if they are to move in the same direction like other continental clubs.
That shouldn’t be very difficult. For starters, we are advantaged by the proximity of DR Congo whose clubs are scaling great heights in the CAF competitions and it is just next door.
If we can’t do things our way or if our way has failed, why not copy them?
It is all about seeing how things are done across the border and learning a few lessons.
One thing Rwandan clubs need to do is to professionalize their structures and the way they go about business.
One of the reasons teams like Tout Puissant Mazembe are thriving in continental competitions is because they have a clear plan of what they want to achieve and where they want to be, the infrastructure as well as competent leadership.
To the contrary, our clubs, it is always and forever a case of divided loyalty. We have the talent at hand but we need to develop that talent plus professionalizing the domestic league.
On the financial side, our clubs need to mind the huge benefits that come with playing on the money-spinning continental competitions. The Rwandan football governing body, FERWAFA also must start thinking in that direction. We can’t reap where we didn’t sow!