Last month, second division side Sports Empowerment Academy (Sec) sent three youngsters for training at the Royal European Football Academy in Valencia, Spain.
The trio of right-back Yves Rwigema, midfielder Anderson Neza and striker Fiston Nkizingabo will be based in Valencia for one year.
In a related development, Sec Academy are also planning to send five players to play for Portuguese fourth division side ADFA (Associação Desportiva de Fornos de Algodres).
The five players include goalkeeper Steven Ntalibi and midfielder Shadad Nsengayire, defender Heritier Turatsinze and striker Isaac Muganza, as well as defender Soter Kayumba.
This is a good achievement for Rwanda’s best football academy which produced majority of the players, who formed the national U-17 teams that reached the final of the African Youth Championships held in Kigali as Rwanda qualified for the first time to compete at the 2011 Fifa Under-17 World Cup finals in Mexico.
However, the untold story behind the Spain initiative is that the Ministry of Sports and Culture (Minispoc) spent over 60,000 euros (Approx. Rwf 54m) to cater for their air tickets, visas and other costs related to their basic necessities while at the Royal European Football Academy in Valencia.
After a year, the trio will be open to join semi or professional clubs in Europe, if they manage to excel and this will help in achieving the country’s dream of having a good number of professional players plying their trade in Europe.
The biggest benefit for the country will be if the three players manage to play for major clubs in Spain, France, Italy or England, would be a stronger Amavubi team.
However, the biggest beneficiary out of this deal will be Sec Academy, because if a professional club is interested in one or two or all three players from the Royal European Football Academy, a certain percentage from his future transfer fees would go to their parent academy.
This could go on for every club that the player(s) signs for until retirement, which means that this money could in turn be used to develop more other younger talents back at home and ensure that they too realise their dream of playing professional football.
The bigger the number of professional players, the better for the national team.
All in all, this would sound as a good venture in as far as developing Rwanda’s football is concerned but on other hand, does it make any sense spending such amount of money on three players instead of using it to develop a poor youth football or grassroots football system in the country?
Had the government injected that amount of money in a third division league or the U-15 & U-17 mini tournaments, or further still, funded the operation of Amavubi academy of excellence, would we have another generation of young players to replace the likes of Emery Bayisenge, Michel Rusheshangonga and Justin Mico?
Why didn’t the Ministry of Sports and Culture use the money to facilitate Ferwafa’s technical director Richard Tardy on a young talent scouting missions around the country instead of sitting almost idle for close to two years pocketing hefty amounts of dollars?
The whole idea of sending more young players to Europe is good however, is it the only channel through which Rwandan football will develop?
Why not inject that kind of money in different local football centres in Kayonza, Rwamagana, Rubavu and Huye to mention but a few which have struggled to exist due to lack of funds.
Can’t this money be used to improve the poor state of the referees’ ability to do their jobs even at a basic level? I’ll leave this topic for another day.
Why didn’t the authorities think about diverting this money into league clubs to reinstate junior teams with Under-15 players to keep them competitive and prepared for future continental competitions?
Couldn’t this money be used to equip local coaches in charge of lower teams at the sector or even at the cell level as another way of improving the football played at the grassroots level?
If anyone can come up with answers to all these questions, then the million-dollar question would be, how many young talents would the country possess in a year or two if the government put some meaningful money into football development at the grassroots?
When will the people at the top of the chain as far football development in Rwanda in concerned ever think broadly about the state or youth development system in the country? What does it say about the leadership in the two major responsible bodies, Minispoc and Ferwafa?
Rwandan football and sports in general doesn’t have quality qualified coaches, it doesn’t have visionary leadership, and it doesn’t have clear structures on which to operate. In a nutshell, the state of Rwandan sports is worrying to say the least.