Defending league title won’t be usual business for the Blues

Rayon Sports gave their fans and local football neutrals something to cheer about when they halted the dominance of APR or Armée Patriotique Rwandaise FC last season.
Ivan R. Mugisha
Ivan R. Mugisha

Rayon Sports gave their fans and local football neutrals something to cheer about when they halted the dominance of APR or Armée Patriotique Rwandaise FC last season.

Rayon Sports didn’t just win the title, but did it in fashion, by putting their main rivals, APR, in a place they never expected or been in, in the club’s 21-year history.

I watched the game in March this year and I will never forget it. Goal after goal, four goals in total, zoomed past the APR keeper, Jean Claude Ndoli, as Amahoro Stadium ruptured in ululation – that is the game that all but surrendered the Turbo King Football League to the Nyanza-based side.

This was Rayon Sports first league title since 2004, a cause for them to celebrate – whereas APR had won it the last four previous seasons in a row and 13 in total since 1995.

I am quite sure that the management of Rayon Sports understands that despite having won, defending their title isn’t going to be a walk in the park, especially when their rivals have embarked on a recruiting spree.

APR has since signed talented stars including Charles Tibingana, Michael Ndahinduka and Patrick Sibomana (Pappy).

Plus, the youthful team from last season has gained a full year’s experience playing together while their German coach Andreas Spier starts his first full season in charge, having taken over the reign towards the end of last season from Eric Nshimiyimana (current Amavubi coach).

These factors have bolstered the army side and helped them to win their opening two league fixtures so far in dominating style.

On the other hand, Rayon Sports snapped up APR goalie, Jean Luc Ndayishimiye to even increase the rivalry between the two.

They also brought in the tricky fast-paced Meddie Kagere, as well as Samson Jakeshi. This is an indication that both clubs have great ambition - they mean business.

Unfortunately for Rayon Sports, they still have a limited squad, unlike their archrivals APR- and this might hurt in the long run.

Their highly rated 20-year- old central defender, Faustin Usengimana, was on the receiving end of a nasty injury that will take him out for months or even the entire season.

This defensive blow might cost Rayon despite their amazing attacking force that includes last season’s top scorer and Player of the Year, Amiss Cedric.

The two giants will faceoff in the first round on November 9 at Amahoro national stadium in what will be a mouthwatering clash of the titans.

This isn’t a normal fixture – it is much more like the El Clasico of Spain between Barcelona and Real Madrid, or the English rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool - a lot is at stake, on and off the field.

APR are only but a new club, having been founded in 1993 and yet, it has amassed more trophies than Rayon Sports, a fact that brews more rivalry.

APR have gone on to dominate Rwandan football with 13 league titles, seven Rwanda Cup titles and three CECAFA titles in a speck of 20 years.

Rayon Sports, a club formed in 1968, on the other hand, boasts of seven league titles, 8 Rwanda Cup titles and one CECAFA.

APR’s coach Spier knows what is at stake, and he is out to prove that last season’s failure was only a hitch – and that APR will bounce back right at the top.

Yet in the same spirit, Rayon Sport’s coach Didier Gomes da Rosa is hell-bent on knocking APR off their perch and create a new force in Rwandan football. It is a hard task for him, but it is his job nevertheless.

Many other clubs have also improved and probably will pause a question or two; but my prediction is that this season’s title will go to either APR or Rayon Sports.

@RushAfrican on Twitter

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