New era dawns on rugby fraternity

IT IS not surprising that a newly elected executive committee of a national federation promises heaven on earth.
New Rugby Federation President Alex Araire (L) being congratulated  by his predecessor Dr Otto Vianney Muhinda  after being elected for a four-year term last week. (File)
New Rugby Federation President Alex Araire (L) being congratulated by his predecessor Dr Otto Vianney Muhinda after being elected for a four-year term last week. (File)

IT IS not surprising that a newly elected executive committee of a national federation promises heaven on earth.

Their promises usually constitute of change and modification that will develop the sport through the implementation of contemporary ideas that have seen successful nations extend their dominance at the top.

Such is the state of affairs with the recently elected officials of the Rwanda Rugby Federation (RRF) who have already identified key areas of development that will change the face of rugby in this country.

Whether they will be executed to suit their vision in the four years they are in office is yet to be judged considering they are yet to find their feet with less than five days in office.

Alex Araire, the president of RRF shared his vision with Times Sport and among the many items on his agenda is to with immediate effect commence the national league which is scheduled to start on November 20 with games being played in Kigali, Muhanga, Kamonyi and Huye.

Infrastructure

The eight clubs will play on a home and away basis with the upcountry based clubs including Muhanga hosting games at home while the Kigali clubs like Lion de Fer and Remera Buffaloes will host home games at the Utexrwa, Red Cross and Ape Rugunga grounds.

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The National Rugby team (blue) takes on Burundi in the Confederations of African rugby tie early this year. New Rugby Federation President Alex Araire is keen to revamp the sport. (File)

In the long term, RRF has agreed to attain the ‘Stade Malariya’ next to Cercle de Sportif de Kigali on lease for 20 years awaiting approval from the City of Kigali which has demanded the federation to commit to maintain the piece of land which is in the green belt of Kigali.

With assistance from Friends of Rwanda Rugby, a UK organization donating £25,000 for refurbishment, RRF is looking to construct a pavilion as required by the city authorities as well as a rugby house to meet the International Rugby Board conditions.

Araire who believes that this pitch would be ready by June 2015 said that, “This is a God sent gift to us. It is centrally located and with our own pitch and rugby ground in Kigali, we should be able to attract more people to the game. It gives us mileage.”

Sponsorship

Attracting corporate sponsorship has always been an issue in Rwanda however Araire who has several contacts in the business world has already started the groundwork to convince a number of companies and organisations to come on board.

“We are looking at grassroot development for instance laying a foundation for tag rugby, spreading the game in primary and secondary schools as well as setting up university and tertiary institution rugby and all this needs funding,” explained Araire.

Women’s rugby

The development of women’s rugby has been a challenge especially on the African continent and this is not an exception to the Rwandan society where practicing sports disciplines let alone rugby is tough for females.

However, Araire and his committee believe that this is an achievable target and that the key strategy is to involve girls at the school level and through tag rugby.

He said, “We have requested every club to have a women’s team and this will be applicable next year. This way we shall have massive involvement.”

Health insurance

Rugby is a contact sport and quite often in a game, players get injuries of all kinds from concussions to ankle, knee, toe and nail injuries to compound fractures to mention but a few.

To address the problem, the RRF is planning to emphasize the need for health insurance issue because every Rwandan should have health insurance cover.

Secondly, the federation will look to have a medical team of physiotherapists trained and each team should have a team doctor with a first aid kit.

Regional influence

Kenya and Uganda are very successful rugby playing nations in the region and Rwanda has a lot to learn from them as they have enjoyed more than three decades of active rugby at all levels.

Araire mentioned that, “Uganda and Kenya have rich rugby history and are willing to support us. We have already talked to the Unions to merge our calendars. Their leagues have already kicked off and we are on course to start ours on November 20. We have agreed that we shall compete in the Bamburi series as well as the Elgon Cup.”

The Bamburi Super series is an annual tournament that features Kenyan and Ugandan select sides in the 15s format of the game and is played on a home and away basis.

On the other hand, the Elgon Cup is a prestigious event that showcases the battle of bragging rights between the two nations named after Mt Elgon shared by both countries.

Araire also revealed that, “Our full time CEO (Adams Juma Mugabo) is going to spend a week at the Uganda Rugby Union to get hands-on training on how to manage all the aspects of management and how to run the day-to-day activities of the federation.”

According to RRF, a close relationship with all stakeholders in Rwanda including the Ministry of Sports and Culture, the Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee, neighboring unions, regional and international bodies is high on their cards.

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