Footballers with dual identities being made scapegoats

EVERY NOW and then, someone from the echelons of sports power in Rwanda has lambasted players who possess two different identities. However, the question they avoid is; how did these players get these two different identities?

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Ivan R. Mugisha

EVERY NOW and then, someone from the echelons of sports power in Rwanda has lambasted players who possess two different identities. However, the question they avoid is; how did these players get these two different identities?

For all the wrong reasons, these poor lads have become scapegoats for a problem that has eaten at the heart of Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa) for decades and unsurprisingly, the sports ministry too has fallen prey to this gimmick.

It’s no secret that the players in question were helped either by Ferwafa or their local clubs or both to get Rwandan IDs, even when they possess national passports from other countries.

Rwanda is one of those countries where individuals can have the privilege of owning two different nationalities.

Therefore, by blaming the players, the sports ministry is purposely clearing the guilty party and blaming the innocent who are inadvertently caught in between, which I find pretty bizarre.

Naturalising sportsmen is not a crime. This is one area that these guys at Ferwafa continue to get wrong. Almost every country on the globe has done it.

Guiseppe Rossi was born in USA but plays football for the Italian national team, Mo Farah sprints for England yet he is originally Somali. Diego Costa is Brazilian-born but he scores goals for Spain. The list is endless.

So, why is it becoming such a nuisance in Rwanda yet it has worked to charming effect elsewhere?

The answer lies with football management. Everyone who follows Rwandan football knows that we have been using naturalised players for as long as one can remember.

What we didn’t know is that they were also playing under different names for clubs in neighbouring countries – but Ferwafa knew! And so did the sports ministry.

Therefore it was surprising to hear the Minister of Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza, acutely blaming the players and even mentioning their names in a press interview.

For God’s sake, Rwanda is the one that has suffered. We are not playing in the AFCON because we were finally caught offside and banned! And to use players as scapegoats now, we are doing nothing but burying our heads in the sand.

If Habineza wants to end this depraved state we find ourselves in, he should grab the bull by its horns rather than clutch on hapless grass.

He should tackle the inefficiencies and incompetence in Ferwafa – the kind that allow such scandals to happen!

One good thing that came out though is that Habineza did acknowledge that mistakes were made – and that he knows that “foreign players were used on our national team.”

It is from this acknowledgement that he should act. Ridiculing the players is useless. Tightening and professionalising Ferwafa management is the only viable option. If they want to naturalise players, let them do it the right way.

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