We need a reality check to redeem Rwandan sport

Rwanda started on a wrong footing after a 1-0 defeat yesterday in the ongoing Cecafa championships in Nairobi, Kenya.  I feel winning the 37th edition of annual regional competition in Nairobi, Kenya should be our main aim for now but in the future—we need to set long-term targets.
 Dr Joseph Kamugisha
Dr Joseph Kamugisha

Rwanda started on a wrong footing after a 1-0 defeat yesterday in the ongoing Cecafa championships in Nairobi, Kenya.  I feel winning the 37th edition of annual regional competition in Nairobi, Kenya should be our main aim for now but in the future—we need to set long-term targets.

Although the Amavubi Stars have always finished in top places in the previous editions of the Senior Challenge Cup, there has been limited success in internationally recognised competitions on the continent.

There is urgent need to revise the principles of sport in the country if we are to observe noteworthy progress.

To a certain extent I feel there has been a waste of resources on the teams that represent the country in various sports disciplines yet there is no measure set in place to ensure redemption.

For so long, our teams have gone out to represent the country in international competitions including the Olympic Games but without winning a single medal. The national football team in particular, has been on what I can only describe as a ‘steady decline’ since 2004.

For purposes of this article, I’ll only focus on football since is the country’s leading sport and therefore takes the lion’s share of the government’s sports budget. There is a serious mismatch between age and experience which in turn is affecting the development of the beautiful game.

Football is a very practical and scientific sport, unless you give yourself a practical task you can never realise or find a way forward to achieving your targets.

The misinterpretation of the two important factors in sports development continues to hurt teams at national level and perhaps this is what we have experienced with the national team.

It’s like in medicine when you misjudge or misinterpret typhoid fever with a neoplastic or cancer fever, you are in most cases likely to have a missed diagnosis and consequently will affect your treatment plan.

Back to football, the seemingly known or called young players are actually not young to play but lack experience of a certain level.

When you look around our local football academies, the players regarded to be U15 are, in actual sense above that age but their body size retarded by growth challenges.

You can wonder how I came up with the above claim but since I have been involved in youth football development activities for almost eight years, I know what I am talking about.

 The idea of youth football in Rwanda needs to be largely revised if we are to achieve anything in the near of even distant future. If not addressed sooner rather than later, we might wait for another 20 years without returning to the Africa Nations Cup finals.

Youth development l is very critical in any sport. Youth football does not largely depend on when you start or how long you have run the programme but most importantly the approach or measures employed to make it work to the intended purpose.

The 10-12 years age category has been largely under-looked in most of the development settings in Rwanda. We had the APR academy, ASEC academy and FERWAFA academy yet none of them put emphasis on this fundamental age group.

I’m sure if the government or whoever else responsible, employed an expert to audit or monitor the success achieved since we came up with this idea of academies compared to amount of money invested, trust me, he is going to find  a very big mismatch.

We appreciate whatever little has been achieved and I’m not criticising anyone for what we haven’t achieved, but I am very concerned about the lost time and resources that could otherwise contribute to national development.

Most of the coaching certificates attained locally do not test the psychology and philosophical understanding of a coach.

Majority of coaches involved in development centers all have qualified through locally organised courses, however, this is not to say international certificates do guarantee success.

Without mentioning names, we have coaches involved in football development programmes but who are not able to trace failures in their daily running of their activities.

Some seem to know or allocate the failure but cannot explain its origin and therefore cannot seek a long-term solution, therefore, before this problem is full addressed, we can only dream of Rwanda becoming a powerhouse in African football.

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