Whatever CAF were thinking when they pitted Rwanda’s two representatives APR and Rayon Sports against Egyptian oppositions in the first round of the Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively, the message was very loud and clear.
By handing both teams ties against the two top teams on the continent in terms of success and pedigree, it’s as though the people who made the draws intended to not have a Rwandan team in the second round of either competition.
To start with, APR and Rayon Sports did so well to advance from the preliminary phase with deserved victories against Liga Desportiva de Maputo of Mozambique and Panthere du Nde of Cameroon in the Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively.
But that is all and far that both teams could manage—for, the next round is proving to be exactly what most people expected.
APR lost 0-2 at home to Al Ahly going into the second leg clash, which was scheduled for last evening in Cairo where only a miracle would save the army side from yet another early elimination.
As for Rayon Sports, who host Zamalek on Sunday (today) at Amahoro stadium in the return leg, having lost the corresponding fixture 3-1 a fortnight ago, odds are very much against them to overturn the two goal deficit in order to progress.
However, much as we all don’t expect the Blues to win by the required goal margin against the Egyptian side, in sports, just like in normal life, if you’re to be successful, you need to be ambitious and dare to dream big, otherwise what is the point of competing for space in this world we live in?
It’s in this sense that the players, fans and well-wishing Rwandans can dare to dream that the God, who we always say ‘spends the day elsewhere and sleeps in Rwanda’ that can save Rayon in-front of what is going to be a daunting task of not only scoring two goals but also making sure they don’t concede.
The game presents newly appointed head coach Jean-Baptiste Kayiranga with an unenviable prospect to get his job started in his first game in charge.
In the first leg, Rayon Sports were awarded two penalties but they could only score one through striker Isaac Muganza and James Tubane missed the other that could have made it 3-2 final score and hence their job in the second leg a little bit less intricate because they would only need to win 1-0.
Like every new coach at any club at every level, Kayiranga’s influence could be what Rayon Sports need to make history, something that may not be far-fetched provided his players stick to the game-plan.
Rayon have enough quality in their squad to hurt Zamalek as was evidenced in the first leg—it’s not very often that visiting teams get two away penalties against Egyptian teams, but Rayon did, which means, they played an offensive game and cause the opponent problems in the penalty box.
Elimination for both APR and Rayon Sports would be bad news for Rwandan football at a time when the country is preparing to host the 2016 African Nations Championship, a competition reserved only for players featuring in their domestic leagues.
Although Zamalek know a thing or two about playing in Kigali, having played against APR in the Champions League on a couple of occasions before—most notably the 4-1 loss in 2004 and 2-1 win in 2008 at Amahoro stadium, and Rayon Sports can dare to dream.