Nationality doesn’t determine success
The national football team (Amavubi) is currently under the management of an interim coach as the search continues on who should take control. Out of 13 coaches the national team has had since 1999, it’s only one Rwandan national, Eric Nshimiyimana, who has managed the team; the rest have been foreigners. This same paper carried a story in its sports pages on Wednesday last week where it was discovered that local coaches ‘fear’ the Amavubi coach job.
Over 50 coaches are said to have applied for the job but there’s a debate on whether the job should be reserved for a Rwandan national since they will probably have a better understanding of football in Rwanda, no language barrier and it will be easy for the players and the coach to bond.
However, I find it shallow that someone would think of such a thing. From what I see, Amavubi’s problems are more than just mere coaches. Using the coaches as a scapegoat for the team’s dismal performances is akin to faulting a plumber for failure to pump water in a house when there is no piping system in the first place.
Four factors are at play here, football development, administration, players and football coaching in Rwanda. We no longer have a sustainable process of discovering and developing our youngsters like we used to way before football got this scientific.
Top class players like Emery Bayisenge, Eric Nsabimana, Steven Ntaribi and Patrick Nsibomana, to mention just a few were all products of these efforts. Our national team does not possess half the quality of any of the players mentioned above. Some of our best players play for local clubs and those that play as pros abroad are not even on first team of their respective clubs.
Majority of Rwandans who take Rwandan football seriously have always talked about the issue of going back to our grassroots. To build our football team, we have to begin with the federation. The mentality and attitude towards Rwandan football also needs to change.
We can’t achieve what we want to achieve with a mentality that has depleted our talent pool to the extent that no one dreams of playing for the national team with zeal and passion.
We don’t have a coaching problem, we have a problem with Rwanda’s obsession with English football and yet we expect performance out of the players from our league. So, the problems run deeper than just coaches. The players themselves are also to blame. Our talent pool is no more, and for some players who play for local teams, they have sometimes endured months of nonpayment which demoralises them even when we expect them to up their game.
Football is their profession but they should be held accountable when they fail to perform like failing to qualify for 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). At the end of the day, it’s about the players on the pitch, regardless of the coach. If the players refuse to put in the work, it’s not going to work.
Foreign football managers or locals can do well. My blame on the players is only based on poor effort. For those who sincerely support the rebirth of football in Rwanda, not only as part of Rwanda’s export but most importantly as a unifying force, we should look at which coach will deliver without limiting it to race or nationality.
Let’s make use of our own
If I was given the opportunity to select the next Amavubi coach, I would definitely give it to a Rwandan. I believe that if a Rwandan is given this job, at least they will not walk out on us for juicier jobs like foreigners have done in the last past.
Take for instance Stephen Constantine, former Amavubi head coach, barely a year with the team, without feeling any remorse went on to sign a deal with All India Football Federation (AIFF) because they were paying him better.I think it is fair to say that foreign coaches are just in for the money which I don’t think would be the case if a Rwandan was given the job.
If a Rwandan is given the job, he will passionately want to prove himself, thus spend most of his time making sure the team is strong, instead of hoping for another team that will pay him better. And coaching your national team is a prestigious role; a local coach, given the opportunity, will do everything in his power to see that the team excels.
Foreigners have not delivered, so let’s make use of our own and nurture great coaches. These foreign coaches were not born coaches, they were given a chance and they perfected the art; our local coaches deserve the same opportunity. Instead of going out there to hire expensive coaches, let us support our local coaches and give them the chance to coach their own national team. The millions spent on hiring a foreigner can be channelled in nurturing talent for a guaranteed bright future.
Therefore if we give the responsibilities of head coach to a local, we are also utilising our limited resources; call it shooting two birds with one stone.
There is also the factor that interaction and communication between local coaches and players is easier because they all understand the same language, which is an important factor for building a strong team. I bet most local players barely understood Stephen Constantine because of his English accent. So let’s give the locals a shot.