Rwanda must produce own strikers: Constantine

Amavubi Stars head coach Stephen Constantine has revealed that his main focus will be to produce a pull of quality strikers, which has been the team's weakest department over the years.
Young striker Bertrand Iradukunda, left, out-muscles a Burundian opponent during Saturday's international friendly match. (T. Kisambira)
Young striker Bertrand Iradukunda, left, out-muscles a Burundian opponent during Saturday's international friendly match. (T. Kisambira)

Amavubi Stars head coach Stephen Constantine has revealed that his main focus will be to produce a pull of quality strikers, which has been the team’s weakest department over the years.

The Englishman, who is currently relying on inexperienced youngsters in his attacking options, has admitted that the problem dates back to practice that did not encourage the development of Rwandan strikers.

“Part of the problem we have had in the past is that we have not had a striker and so we keep recruiting players from other countries and this is what I am trying to address,” the former coach of Sudan and Malawi said.

He added: “We took Danny Usengimana from the second division and put him in the national team because we do not have enough strikers. What I am trying to do is to give time to these young players.”

In the past five years, the Amavubi have depended on foreign imports notably Meddie Kagere and Peter Otema from Uganda, Dady Birori, Jimmy Mbaraga and Jerome Sina from the Democratic Republic of Congo to do the magic upfront.

However, following Rwanda’s disqualification from the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations group stage qualifiers over fielding a dual identity player (Birori) alias Tady Etekiama Agiti in August, the Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa) decided to ban naturalised players from the national team. This meant that Constantine lost five starters on the national team – all forwards. Amavubi played their first encounter without a naturalised player in November against Morocco and the U-23 side played against Burundi on Saturday but both games ended goalless.

Constantine said, “I thought Bertrand (Iradukunda) run his socks off against Burundi. Sugira (Ernest) was much better than when he is playing for his club team.”

“These boys need international exposure, they need games and they need quality time with me at international level. I think in one or two years, we could start to see the fruits of our own players.”

The 52-year-old noted that, another way for Rwanda to produce its own strikers would be if local clubs are not allowed to use any foreigners at all.

He said, “But I understand there is the Caf Champions League. We have been bringing strikers from other countries and changing their passports and you see the problem we got with Dady Birori, so we need to make our own players.”

Rwanda is yet to score a goal since the departure of naturalised players but Constantine believes that with the exposure on the international level, the young strikers will start delivering.

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