No place for hooliganism in sports

Before sitting behind my aging office desktop computer to type this piece, I kind of struggled to decide where to begin from-not that I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, but simply because, when I write, I never want to be led by emotion, especially on important subject matters.

Before sitting behind my aging office desktop computer to type this piece, I kind of struggled to decide where to begin from—not that I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, but simply because, when I write, I never want to be led by emotion, especially on important subject matters.

As you may be well aware, it’s been quite a while since I last appeared in these pages, and I take this opportunity to apologise to those, if any, that I may have disappointed in that period; my absence has been tactical , nonetheless, it feels good to be back once again doing what I love doing.

For some time now, I have been plotting a comeback and I believe the timing is right to do just that, particularly at a time when all like-minded believers in ‘Fair Play’ in sport, need to be up in arms to condemn, in the strongest terms possible, the behavior of APR players and coaches after their defeat to Espoir in the league on Wednesday.

Football or sports in general is about three—winning, losing and drawing, so if an individual or team is not ready to acknowledge that, then they’re in the wrong place and so should not be allowed anywhere near the field of play because they don’t deserve to be called as sportsmen or women.

On Thursday, March 19, we woke up to appalling reports that APR players and coaches assaulted match officials, specifically, referee Issa Kagabo and ‘fought’ running battles with Police simply because they were not happy with some of his decisions!

For starters, Kagabo is one the two top referees we have in this country along with Hudu Munyenmana, and for that, he deserves respect on and off the field, which APR have failed to do, not just in midweek but over the years.

By the way it’s not the first time we hear this nonsense from the APR camp insinuating that the he (Kagabo) is always biased against them when officiating at their games.

When a team goes into the match already prejudiced that the ref isn’t going to be fair to them, then it becomes very difficult for the players to accept and respect his judgment, particularly decisions that are either 50-50 or slightly contentious.

It’s a shame we don’t have access to the footage from that ill-fated game in Rusizi nor do we have a very clear eye-witness account of what really happened.

But every report that came from Rusizi points to the fact that APR, led by striker Michel Ndahinduka and interim head coach Vincent Mashami were at the front-line in venting their anger at Kagabo, who also sent off midfielder Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza in the first half for allegedly insulting him.

Mugiraneza, being the team’s assistant captain and one of the most experienced players, should know better that you can’t insult a referee, and if Kagabo included that incident in his match report, which I assume he did, Migi needs to get an additional ban in addition to the automatic three-match ban for a straight red card.

As for Ndahinduka and his coach Mashami, and we hear that goalkeeping coach Ibrahim Mugisha was also involved in the ‘showing Kagabo’ that he wasn’t happy—these guys and anyone else who may have been involved in inciting the violence on the ref, need to be handed the heaviest possible punishment as a way of deterring future would-be culprits.

One rule for all

Just last year, the then Rayon Sports head coach Luc Eymael, striker Cedric Amissi, secretary general Olivier Gakwaya as well as the head of fans’ clubs, Claude Muhawenimana, were handed bans and fines by Ferwafa for their involvement in the violence that erupted after a 1-1 draw against AS Kigali in a league match at Amahoro National Stadium.

Belgian coach was banned for two years and a fine of Rwf200,000, Burundian striker Amissi banned for six months and a fine of Rwf50,000, Gakwaya for two years and a fine of Rwf500,000 and Muhawenimana received a two-year ban and fined Rwf500,000.

It was the first time in the recent history of Rwandan football that we witnessed violence at a stadium and for the interest of the beautiful game, the local football governing body acted and meted out the ultimate penalties to the culprits.

Therefore, because we were all excited that Ferwafa made the right call in punishing Rayon Sports then it’s only logical that we should expect them to do the same for APR and or any other club or individual for their shameful behaviors.

It was reported that Ferwafa would make their pronouncement on the matter today (Sunday) after studying ‘well’ the referee’s match report, so it’s imperative that the right decisions are made and if anyone is found guilty, they must be dealt with as the rules stipulate.

This article is not meant to prejudice the outcome of Ferwafa’s decision making but the bottom line is that there shouldn’t be one rule for Rayon and another for APR, after all, we all agree there’s no place for hooliganism in sports, anywhere in the world, more so in Rwanda.

Mashami and his players must know they are supposed to be role models for the young generation and so whatever they do and off the field impacts massively on the message they send out to the aspiring footballers.

And by doing what they did, APR could be starting to feel the pressure and failing to come to terms with the fact that the destiny of the National Football League title is no longer in their hands after letting a seven-point lead at the top the table slip away in a space of barely three weeks.

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