Rwanda coach Johnny McKinstry has included six new faces in the 24-man provincial squad that will commence training on Monday afternoon ahead of the Caf U-23 qualifier return leg tie against Somalia that will be played in Nairobi on May 9.
Police FC playmaker Rachid Kalisa and defender Fitina Ombolenga return to the U-23 side for the first time since January when Rwanda U-23 was held to a 1-1 draw by hosts Tanzania in a friendly match in Mwanza.
The Gicumbi trio of goalkeeper Emmanuel Bwanakweri, midfielders Shadad Nsengayire and Cedric Mugenzi were rewarded with a call-up to the national side following their impressive display midweek in their side’s 1-1 draw with table leaders APR at Byumba Stadium. Habarurema Gahunda of Marines is also making a debut appearance for the youth side.
The six players replaced the eight who were excluded from the final squad that faced Somalia a week ago in the first leg 2-0 win at Amahoro Stadium.
Goalkeepers Olivier Kwizera and Yves Kimenyi, defenders Michel Rusheshangoga, Faustin Usengimana and Herve Rugwiro, midfielders Djihad Bizimana, Andrew Buteera and Robert Ndatimana were victims of mistakes made by the Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa) in processing the players’ identification documents.
These players who feature for APR – Kwizera, Kimenyi, Rusheshangoga, Rugwiro and Buteera as well as Usengimana, Bizimana and Ndatimana who play for Rayon Sports have different birth dates on their identity cards and service passports processed by Ferwafa at the Rwanda Immigration Offices.
APR and Rayon Sports represented Rwanda in the Caf Champions League and Caf Confederations Cup respectively this year and it is the difference in their play cards during these competitions and the details sent for the Caf U-23 qualifiers that sparked the controversies.
According to McKinstry, the problem is mostly with the dates and months of birth and not necessarily the year of birth. Ferwafa is awaiting response from Caf and this is expected to happen by Monday.
“We are obviously still waiting for official response from Caf but we expect a favourable outcome. We had to name a squad and start training camp so we called in a few more players including two goalkeepers to replace Olivier and Yves and I was impressed with three Gicumbi players when I watched their game against APR and now it is a chance for them to stake their claim for a place on the team,” explained McKinstry.
He admitted that the response from Caf has taken longer than expected because some Caf officials have been travelling and the decision cannot be made by one person, however, if the eight players are cleared by tomorrow then they can join the rest of the squad but if they are cleared on Wednesday or Thursday, it will be too late to make changes.
McKinstry explained that, “I would like to have a team that knows their roles because last minute changes are never good even though they are players of good quality. We want to avoid what happened to us last week.
The challenge was that we had to make these changes at the last minute and had never really trained as a starting XI. It meant that the interplay wasn’t the same. So we want to put more finesse into the approach to the game, more cohesive and more fluid this time round.”
Yannick Mukunzi and Kevin Muhire gave Rwanda a two-goal advantage in the first round at Amahoro Stadium and McKinstry is keen on building on this achievement on May 9.
The side that will proceed thereafter will meet Egypt in the last round of qualification for the Caf U-23 tournament scheduled for December 5-19 in Senegal, an event that will attract eight teams. The top three teams will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
Goalkeepers: Marcel Nzarora (Police), Emmanuel Bwanakweri (Gicumbi) and Habarurema Gahunda (Marines)
Defenders: Emery Bayisenge (APR), Abdul Rwatubyaye (APR), Solomon Nirisarike (VV St. Truiden-Belgium), Fitina Ombolenga (SC Kiyovu), Janvier Mutijima (AS Kigali), Celestin Ndayishimiye (Mukura VS), Emmanuel Imanishimwe (Rayon Sport)
Midfielders: Rachid Kalisa (Police), Shadad Nsengayire (Gicumbi), Yannick Mukunzi (APR), Bon Fils Kabanda (ASD Sangiovannese-Italy), Kevin Muhire (Isonga), Cedric Mugenzi (Gicumbi), Yves Rubasha (Portland Timbers-USA).
Forwards: Justin Mico (AS Kigali), Dominique Savio Nshuti (Isonga), Jean Marie Muvandimwe (Gicumbi), Isaie Songa (AS Kigali), Isaac Muganza (Rayon Sport), Bertrand Iradukunda (APR) and Bienvenue Mugenzi (Marines).