When the 2010 World Cup preliminary qualifying draw was made in Durban on Sunday, all Rwandans cherished a moment that the national soccer team – Amavubi Stars – would come through and be part of the historic finals.
This is the first time, the FIFA World Cup is being staged on the African continent and the road to reach the 2010 finals began with draws in Durban. Rwanda was pitied against North African giants Morocco, Ethiopia and Mauritania in Group Eight of the qualifiers.
Officials from local football ruling body, Ferwafa and fans alike, welcomed draw as a fair one. In his own words, Ferwafa CEO Jules Kalisa said “with good preparations I believe we will surprise and go through; we should only be worried of Morocco. I believe we can get a draw and win at Amahoro.”
That is easier said than done. Early preparations, starting with next month’s Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Tanzania, should lay the foundation for Amavubi’s campaign to qualify for both the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola and the World Cup in South Africa.
A strong domestic league, with attractive packages for winning clubs and best performing players, must be in place to provide the competitive edge that will be transferred to the national team.
While football purists argue that you need a mixture of luck, better preparations and motivation, Rwanda’s disgracefully poor away record that rocked the failed campaign to qualify for 2008 Nations Cup in Ghana must be dealt with if the country is to qualify for another major tournament since the 2004 Nations Cup finals in Tunisia.
Rwanda’s rating of 119 in the FIFA ranking ensured that it avoided the burden of playing a lowly side on home and away basis in round one. The main test will come when Coach Kuze Josip takes his boys to Morocco but apart from the North African side, Ethiopia are familiar opponents, having played several clashes in the Cecafa challenge cup matches. Mauritania is considered outsiders and shouldn’t be real a worry for Rwanda.
Amavubi would have to play a maximum of 12 games if they advance to the finals. Six matches apiece would be played in rounds two and three respectively.
Taking a leaf from last year’s World Cup African representatives, Togo and Angola, Rwanda should aim to play with gusto, skill and consistency. Both Togo and Angola were considered outsiders in the run up to Germany 2006 World Cup, but they shocked the likes of fancied Nigeria and Senegal in the qualifiers.
We say Amavubi can achieve similar feast and make 2010 a memorable year for all Rwandans.