2014 saw a mixture of highs and lows for local sports in Rwanda. Times Sport’s Ostine Arinaitwe looks at the stories that stood out in local sports in 2014.
Death of co-pilot Christophe Dusquene in the Rallye des Mille Collines
The lowest point in Rwandan Sport in 2014 was the death of Rwandan driver Claude Kwizera’s co-driver Christophe Dusquene after their Subaru Impreza N12 skidded off the road and hit a tree.
Dusquene, who was in the right seat, was the most affected and would later die on his way to Gahini hospital. The race was immediately called off and the annual competition will be renamed after the Belgian.
Valens Ndayisenga and the birth of a new star
Not since a young Jimmy Gatete scored goals that took Rwanda to their first Africa Nations appearance in 2004 has an athlete captured the attention of the country including the President who is a known sports fan.
20-year- old Ndayisenga won the prestigious Tour du Rwanda in November beating stiff competition from some of the best riders on the continent. Thousands of people sent him congratulatory messages on social media and the national cycling team was hosted to a party by President Kagame who promised to boost the sport.
The youthful cyclist whose heroics in the race propelled him to stardom remains humble attributing his success to team work and coaches.
For winning one of the most competitive races in Africa, Ndayisenga was also voted as the 5th best cyclist on the continent and further landed another invite to the famed International Cycling Union Centre (UCI) in Switzerland.
Ndayisenga’s triumph reinforced one open secret that there is a sport –Cycling that Rwanda has a competitive advantage in on the continent.
Rwanda banned from 2015 Afcon
The lowest moment in Rwandan football without any doubt was when the Confederation of African football (Caf) banned the national team from taking part in the 2015 African nations cup Qualifiers after fielding a player with double identity.
The player in question is Dady Birori who was also known as Agiti Tady Etekiama in the DR Congo. The striker, who plays for Kinshasa-based AS Vital Club was also handed a 2 year ban.
The ban against Rwanda prompted Ferwafa to institute a commission to review the identities of all naturalised players. Several of the players including Ndikumana Hamad Katauti who had played for the national side for over 18 years and also captained the national team-Amavubi were found not to have any documents showing they were Rwandan.
Recently Ferwafa in consultation with the Immigration department found some of the players qualified to be nationals. Some of those players are Richard Buteera and Fuadi Ndayisenga.
Ferwafa, Tele 10’s botched T.V deal
In October, Ferwafa agreed a 3 year $1.5m sponsorship deal with local T.V Company Tele 10 for the broadcasting rights of the National football league.
The biggest sponsorship deal in Rwandan football history however failed to take off as Ferwafa was accused of using amateur methods in awarding Tele 10 the broadcasting rights.
Different Broadcasters who included Rwanda Broadcasting Agency accused Ferwafa of not issuing any guidelines or terms of reference to bidders interested in broadcasting the league.
Ferwafa’s attempts to charge sports journalists entrance fee and barring them from airing league matches caused animosity between the football body and sports journalists further straining the relationship between Ferwafa President Vincent Nzamwita and several sports scribes.
Although officials of Ferwafa are adamant that they will soon reach a deal with Tele 10, the monies that are likely to be involved will be less after different broadcasters made it clear that they will not bid for the broadcasting rights.
Rwanda attains highest Fifa rankings
In a year when the Amavubi were embarrassingly thrown out of the African nations cup qualifiers, there was a sense of pride when Rwanda recorded its highest ever Fifa rankings in December.
Rwanda is currently ranked 68th globally, after moving 22 places in just one month. For the first time in years, Rwanda became the highest ranked country in the region and was also the biggest mover globally in the Fifa December rankings.
Ferwafa President’s attempt’ to get a match bonus
Perhaps one of the most embarrassing scandals for Ferwafa President Vincent Nzamwita was when a list of Amavubi players supposed to receive a bonus for winning African nations qualifiers leaked to the press with his name on it.
The Ministry of Sports which is responsible for giving bonuses removed the embarrassed Ferwafa President’s name from the list saying that he is only entitled to a travel allowance.
Nzamwita’s explanations that his name was added by mistake did little to convince his critics.
Habineza bounces back to Sports Ministry
One of the most popular ministers especially among the youth, Joseph Habineza was re-appointed to the Ministry of Sports and Culture sparking off a lot of buzz on social media with thousands of people welcoming the charismatic former Ambassador back.
A Hashtag on twitter called #Whileyouwereaway was created to update the Minister on what had transpired in the country during his brief tenure as Rwanda’s Ambassador to Nigeria.
However Habineza’s return was not as smooth as he had to deal with a lot of hurdles like Rwanda’s ban from 2015 Afcon qualifiers.
Bralirwa halts National football league sponsorship
League sponsors of the national football league for the last few years, Bralirwa was incensed when rivals Skol agreed a $50.000 3 year deal to sponsor Rayon Sport, which has the biggest fan base in the country.
The brewery company gave Ferwafa an ultimatum to stop Rayon Sport from donning their playing kit which had Skol inscribed on them.
Ferwafa’s refusal to be bullied by the company led to Bralirwa refusing to renew sponsorship for the league, something that some clubs are saying will affect their budget because they have been relying on such sponsorship money to supplement revenue got from their primary sponsors.
Mfutila returns to Rwanda
One of the most renowned coaches in the country after guiding APR to a treble of Cecafa cup, league and Peace cup, Mfutila was snapped by Rayon Sport in November with the Blues eager to dominate local soccer in the country.
Mfutila is only the second coach after Jean Marie Ntagwabira to coach arch rivals Rayon Sport and APR.
The Congolese tactician’s bid to return the Blues to the helm of soccer in Rwanda has got off to a difficult start after failing to win a game since November.
Despite a poor start, Mfutila has re-assured fans of the Nyanza based side that his team will challenge for the league title and impress in continental competitions.
Will Constantine stay as Amavubi coach?
After guiding Rwanda to their best ever Fifa rankings, Amavubi coach Stephen Constantine has caught the eye of his former employers-India, according to media reports in India.
The English Coach told this paper in a recent interview that he has not received any formal communication from the Indian Football Federation but added that he was named Amavubi coach before he was consulted.
Bonaventure Uwizeyimana wins stage in La Tropicale Amissa Bongo Tour
In a year when cycling brought so much joy and pride to Rwandans, it all started in February when 21-year-old Bonaventure Uwizeyimana won stage five of Africa’s premier cycling competition-La Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
Uwizeyimana’s triumph set the tone for future successes of the National Cycling team which impressed in several races across the continent.