Rwanda needs to win Cecafa Cup consistently

Can Amavubi win next year’s Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) when the tournament comes to Rwanda from January 16 through February 7?
McKinstry (R) oversees his youthful team during his first training session at Amahoro Stadium ahead of the friendly with Zambia, which Rwanda lost 2-0.
McKinstry (R) oversees his youthful team during his first training session at Amahoro Stadium ahead of the friendly with Zambia, which Rwanda lost 2-0.

Can Amavubi win next year’s Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) when the tournament comes to Rwanda from January 16 through February 7?

It’s a question many do not have the right answer for—and not even the players or their coach Johnny McKinstry may not be prepared to attempt to answer, yet we hear government and Rwanda Football Association officials setting targets of winning the competition.

Sorry but both my heart and head tell me, this team we have, can’t, reason being, it’s not good enough.

Former Sports and Culture Minister, Joseph Habineza, during his brief second spell in the docket, was all over the map suggesting to whoever cared to listen to him, how Amavubi must make sure the trophy stays in Rwanda.

And now his successor Julienne Uwacu, with seemingly so little knowledge of the beautiful game and probably what it takes to win major competition, was at it from the day she took oath of office, also echoing her predecessor that Amavubi ‘must’ win the tournament on home soil.

The most disappointing bit of it that both don’t actually say how the team can win the competition—all they have done is to give blanket statements!

The 2016 finals tournament will be the 4th edition of the Confederation of African Football-sanctioned biennial football competition that exclusively features players playing in their respective domestic leagues.

However, when I hear government officials, who are not even technocrats in this field, setting such high and possibly unachievable targets, I wonder where or what they base their assumption that we have a team so good enough to win a major championship.

Taking a closer look at the ranking for CAF competitions based on results from the Champions League and Confederation Cup tournaments from 2010 to 2014, Rwanda is not ranked in the top 20.

And for the benefit of whoever believes Rwanda can host and go on to win the tournament, here is a fact that they need to absorb--the winners of the past three editions, DR Congo (3), Tunisia (1) and Libya (14) are all ranked highly and none of them won the trophy on home soil.

Now I don’t really understand how on earth we start thinking of Rwanda becoming a ‘powerhouse’ overnight in African football to the extent of expecting to win CHAN 2016 or even qualifying for AFCON or World Cup when the team can’t even win the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup! It beats common sense.

This idea of setting ourselves unrealistic targets just for the sake of being seen as being ambitious doesn’t work in Rwanda’s favour, in-fact, it only puts the players under unnecessary pressure because they would go in a competition wanting and expecting to bite more than they can actually chew.

To me, for Amavubi to be seen as serious contenders for major competitions, they must start winning not only the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup consistently but also our clubs need to improve on their dismal record in CAF competitions—Champions League and Confederation Cup.

Rwanda’s only and last regional senior title can be traced way back in 1999 when the Challenge Cup was first held in Kigali, and since then, it has been a case of coming so close yet so far.

This current team has potential to win another Cecafa title in the near future but at the moment, lacks the experience and quality to go for a major continental competition, and so to ask them to win next year’s CHAN just because they’ll be playing in-front of the home fans, it asking too much.

Amavubi needs to be consistent in Afcon qualifiers too and add to their single appearance that came in 2004—but if we base our hopes and expectations on just Fifa ranking to set ourselves so high targets, then we should be in a for a long haul.

Don’t forget that this team we have has scored just two away goals in 17 international matches, and that to me, that’s a sign of a very poor team—you know goals win football matches.

Newly installed 29-year old McKinstry has a hell of work to do in the next eight months if Rwandans can even dare to dream of reaching the last four of CHAN 2016 let alone winning the competition.