In the past week, I have spoken to several football followers in and out of the country and everyone has told me that there is no way Rwanda will defeat Ghana on Saturday when the two sides meet in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier at Amahoro Stadium.
It is not a mere ‘no’ they utter but their response comes along with shaking their heads with such emphasis that it has left me stunned at not just their response but the lack of faith in a young side that has nothing to lose in this tie.
I respect their opinions and while this does not raise questions about their patriotism, it reveals a people who have been swept by the power of television and stardom to determine the result of a game that should actually be advantage Amavubi since they are playing on home soil.
While many will refer to Saturday’s game as a David versus Goliath encounter simply to enhance the analogy of the underdog against a giant, it would mean that the Amavubi will come along with their ‘slingshot’, a highly effective weapon in those days that was used by armies in wars and not the modern day misconception that it was ‘just a sling’.
Amavubi have what it takes to register a positive result against a star-studded Black Stars side. While Amavubi may not have a player featuring in the top four leagues in the world, on the other hand, only goalkeeper Fatau Dauda is a locally based player featuring for AshGold FC in Ghana.
However, the home side can rely on a strong character and a demeanor to face the toughest of tests head on and go on to grab all three points.
In captain Haruna Niyonzima, Amavubi boast a unique breed of creative midfielder, who not only brings the fans in the stands alive with his skills with the ball, but, more importantly, creates chances and guides his teammates across the field.
I’ve no qualms that right back Michel Rusheshangoga will ably deal with Christian Atsu, Andre Dede Ayew and Baba Rahman or whichever full backs and wingers Avram Grant throws onto the pitch.
Emery Bayisenge and Salomon Nirisarike in central defence as well as Abouba Sibomana at left back will bring the quality into that defence while on-form goalkeeper Olivier Kwizera has what it takes to be the difference in this game.
Upfront, Ernest Sugira, Jacques Tuyisenge, on the right wing, and Jean Claude Iranzi, on the left, can upset a giant and just like against Mozambique, the Amavubi can pick crucial points that will surely go a long way in determining Rwanda’s place in Gabon in 2017.
Football is about basics and if the home side goes by the book, victory can be achieved. But if any of our players gets caught up in a moment about being on the same pitch with these star players they watch every weekend on their television sets, then we are in for a long day!
I totally understand the dilemma they will face but come Saturday, for the sake of a place in history, the Amavubi need to overcome the urge of being star struck and get on with their job – which is to win.
After registering a win then the Amavubi players can go on with the selfies, hugs and jersey exchanges. Yes, it is a tall order against an established side, runners up at this year’s AFCON but that is not to say that they cannot fall in our backyard. Why not?
Amavubi should walk into this game not only for the sake of Rwanda but also as ambassadors of East African football which has been rubbished by many in the football fraternity as being underdeveloped and unworthy of being at the top.