Who would have thought it? Leicester City Football Club is top of the Premier League – and by several points! Yet, this time last season Leicester City was at the bottom of the Premier League table fighting relegation. If you had asked me or any other football enthusiast six months ago where they would be placed right now, chances are that everyone would have placed them somewhere near the bottom of the table, propping up the other teams in the battle to survive, again.
So, what has made them defy all expectations and be so successful this season? To be honest, I guess we will never know for certain, but for me, given that Leicester’s total spend in the 2015 summer transfer was nowhere near that of the other title challengers like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, or Tottenham, a lot has to do with Leicester’s personal belief, teamwork, and individual leadership qualities among players and management.
When Leicester City plays football today, they believe they are going to win. You can see this as soon as the game starts. They know what each other’s strengths are, and where they can help each other out. While individually they aren’t the most expensively assembled or highly talented set of players in the Premier League, collectively they are proving to be more than the sum of their parts. What Leicester City and their Italian manager, Claudio Ranieri, have proved this season is that spending huge sums of money – buying the so-called ‘best’ players in the world – is no substitute for excellent teamwork, leadership, and resilience. You can’t buy success if everyone is not working together.
What has made the teamwork ethic at Leicester so strong? Clearly, Claudio Ranieri has played a significant role.
Besides his experience managing at the very top, Ranieri’s charismatic approach has shielded his players from any sort of external pressure allowing them to focus on each and every game with full concentration. However, I also believe that Leicester City players learned a great deal from the difficulties of last season where, at Christmas 2014, for instance, bookmakers had virtually stopped taking bets about their relegation; it was taken as being inevitable. But, towards the end, they all pulled together, focused and, despite all the opinions of experts, proved everyone wrong – and survived.
So what does Leicester City’s remarkable season have to do with Rwanda? Well, twenty-two years ago today, our country was in tatters; the state authorities that were supposed to serve and protect the people had instead orchestrated a plan to systematically eliminate the Tutsi and the moderate Hutu who sympathised with them. One hundred days later, the Genocide against the Tutsi had claimed the lives of more than one million men, women, and children. All of the time, the rest of the world pretended that nothing was happening and, subsequently, did not lift a finger to intervene and save lives. It was left to the Rwanda Patriotic Army (that has since morphed into Rwanda Defence Forces) to intervene and stop the Genocide.
Economically, Rwanda suffered tremendously over the course of the Genocide. For instance, according to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, in 1994 Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was halved in a single year, eighty per cent of the population was plunged into poverty and vast tracts of land and livestock were destroyed.
Similarly, the already poorly developed productive infrastructure was completely destroyed and the nation had lost a generation of trained teachers, doctors, public servants and private entrepreneurs. Rwanda, like Leicester City of last year, was fighting to survive. To all intents and purposes, everyone thought that Rwanda was going to become another failed state.
However, with a visionary leadership, clear focus, resilience of the people, teamwork, and the belief that we could turn things around, we did.
Today, we have managed to give most of the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi a decent and dignified burial; a significant number of perpetrators have faced justice (even though some continue to evade it); Rwanda has seen her economy grow at an average of eight per cent over the last decade; millions of Rwandans have access to both healthcare and education; Rwanda is now considered the safest country in Africa; women have been empowered in Rwanda at a higher rate than any other country in the world; and, more importantly, most Rwandans believe that more, better achievements are yet to come.
In addition, the same people who watched from the sidelines while our brothers, sisters, children, fathers, and mothers were being massacred now seem to always want to get into our diaries – with some motivated by guilt of inaction, while others simply want to learn from us; they want to use Rwanda to show how a nation can rise against all the odds. Almost all serious scholars and economic recovery experts acknowledge that few countries, if at all any, can ever rise from the ashes as fast and as eloquently as Rwanda has.
But, like Leicester which continues to fight for every point it earns every weekend to the end of the season, Rwandans cannot sit back and assume that the fight is over, particularly when we know that there are people out there who still harbour the ideology of genocide. We must lead the world to fight with no reservations against anyone who harbours an ideology that dehumanises anyone based on their ethnicity, religion, culture or place of origin. We must continue to be at the forefront of any efforts to protect human rights, the right to live, and the right to pursue happiness, both home and abroad.
Let us carry on honouring the victims and survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi by maintaining unity over fear, forgiveness over revenge, and hope over despair.