Taking stock of the good and bad in sports

It’s been exactly a year since my last column on Sports in Rwanda, Africa and globally in general and one would be quick to ridicule me as it might seem the wrong timing on so many sports calendars but I can use this sports off season to bring you up to speed with some depressing matters concerning both local and international sports.
The National Volleyball team celebrate after winning the Zone 5. Rwanda will send two teams the indoor and Beach Volleyball teams to the All Africa Games. (T.Kisambira)
The National Volleyball team celebrate after winning the Zone 5. Rwanda will send two teams the indoor and Beach Volleyball teams to the All Africa Games. (T.Kisambira)

It’s been exactly a year since my last column on Sports in Rwanda, Africa and globally in general and one would be quick to ridicule me as it might seem the wrong timing on so many sports calendars but I can use this sports off season to bring you up to speed with some depressing matters concerning both local and international sports.

Local football

The National Football League is coming to a close with defending champions APR almost certain to retain the title in what looks like a comfortable finish to the season despite AS Kigali pushing them for larger parts of the campaign. 

Fans favorite Rayon Sports have been mired in management and financial woes with the club continuously in debt and doing the unwise thing of putting old wine in new bottles as they brought back a couple of former managers to try and create miracles for what many would think was an accident waiting to happen. 

Police football club continue flattering to deceive despite maintaining their inconsistency tagline, a sure indication that is not only about the man in the dugout but the system as a whole if a club is to achieve some sort of success.

Amavubi

Our national football team has continued to be in the papers for the wrong reasons over the course of the season from the controversial banning of naturalized players,”mistaken registration,” of over-aged players for the U-23 team and to resignations by coaching staff. 

We are yet to see the fruits of hiring Irishman John Mckinstry but it would be unfair to expect miracles from him in his opening months although he hardly has the time for a honeymoon period.

A tough fixture list awaits him in a fortnight against neighbors Uganda and one would worry for his junior side more so after their not so convincing victory over Somalia over two legs.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, this column is going to give you a generative view of the state of sports and despite the hardships facing the likes of football, basketball and rugby they have been a few silver linings for sports lovers in Rwanda.

Three disciplines have thus stood out this year but none is more surprising and consistent as cricket. 

A few years back the Rwanda cricket Association embarked on what looked like an ambitious campaign of setting up its own stadium, a first for any discipline independently outside the support of the Ministry of Sports and Culture (MINISPOC) and this is set to see fruition by the end of next year after having collected enough funds to set up an ultra oval.

Competition among the teams taking part in the different tournaments has continued to rise with it becoming harder to predict the outcomes of games.

Telugu, Kerala hunters, Kigali Cricket Club and even Victory Cricket Club have laid their mark on a couple of well contested tournaments but the downside to this growing competition has been the failure of this growth to be translated to the senior men’s and women’s teams that have struggled regionally.

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The National football team Amavubi. (Net photo)

Volleyball

So far the sport bringing the biggest smile to Rwandans lately and I will explain later why it isn’t cycling.

When news came in that the national team captain Christophe Mukunzi and two of the starting six would not be available for the zone five championships that also acted as All Africa games qualifiers, a fan would have been worried more so that our biggest rivals Kenya had five European based players in their squad.

With the depth of Paul Bitok’s team now put to the test, Rwanda went on to book its spot at this year’s All Africa games with a 3-2 victory over Kenya, a factor that should be attributed to great preparations and a strong league as the backbone for the success.

Rwandan sport and good preparations are not terms usually used in the same context but the achievements of the volleyball federation to send two teams to the upcoming All Africa games should attest to other Sports administrators the importance of adequate preparations. 

With the National League playoffs around the corner, a neutral would be caught between thinking APR, Rayon Sports or INATEK volleyball clubs will go on to lift this year’s title as all three teams have shown the ability to hold their own.

Cycling again played host to an international event in the form of the Africa Mountain Bike Championships that also doubled as qualifiers for the Olympic games in Brazil next year but unfortunately Rwanda is yet to secure its qualification pass to the biggest sports competition in the world.

Lack of experience played a big part with the tournament being dominated by teams from Southern Africa but the chances of qualification for RIO 2016 might still be in our own court more so if Africa’s number one ranked nation South Africa can qualify automatically by keeping in the top order of world rankings.

I’m guessing that brings a similar tale to the ears of a Rwandan sports lover, our hopes clinging on another nation’s performance. Well at times even adequate preparations can only give you fruits of your labor over a period of time. 

Arnold Kwizera is a Sports pundit

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