Hours after the sacking of Irishman Johnny McKinstry as the Amavubi head coach, there are already growing calls within local football fraternity for the country’s football governing body, FERWAFA, and the Ministry of Sports and Culture to finally put a Rwandan in charge of the national team on a permanent basis.
McKinstry was relieved of his duties yesterday following an early morning meeting that sealed his fate, according to Lt Col Patrice Rugambwa, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sports and Culture.
The 30-year old had taken over as the Amavubi boss in March last year, replacing Englishman Stephen Constantine who moved on to become the head coach of India’s national football team after guiding Rwanda to its highest ever FIFA/Coca-Cola ranking – 68th – globally .
McKinstry leaves after presiding over what’s arguably the steepest freefall in the national team’s performances in recent years, with Amavubi coming in 121st place in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola ranking released early this month.
“We have taken the decision to terminate McKinstry’s contract because of a poor run of results. In his contract, he had committed to guiding the country to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and to the 2018 World Cup finals, both of which are now mathematically impossible to achieve, he didn’t deliver on what he promised and there’s no other option,” Rugambwa told Times Sport moments after the meeting.
McKinstry’s former assistant Jimmy Mulisa was immediately named interim Amavubi head coach and tasked to take charge of the September 3 African Cup of Nations qualifier away to Ghana, with sports officials saying a decision on the post would be taken thereafter.
Rwanda is already out of contention for the 2017 AfCon finals having lost three of their five qualifiers played so far.
Now, there is a growing clamour within local football circles to give the Amavubi hot seat to a national on a permanent basis.
Former Amavubi midfielder and current U-23 team coach Jean Baptiste Kayiranga believes a local coach can do a good job with the national team but only if given time.
“The decision lies squarely in the hands of the football leaders, they can choose to trust us or not,” he told Times Sport yesterday.
The former Rayon Sports player and coach, who also once served as Amavubi coach on an interim basis, said: “They know what local coaches are capable of, but they can choose to underrate us.”
“It is possible for a Rwandan to successfully manage the national team but people would need to be patient with him. You cannot judge someone on the basis of results from just one or two matches.”
Andre Casa Mbungo, the former Police FC and AS Kigali coach, who also took charge of Amavubi briefly last year, agreed with Kayiranga, saying that if local coaches were allowed time to prove themselves with the national team they would do a good job.
He added that, if local coaches were accorded the same level of support and goodwill extended to Amavubi European coaches, they would deliver the results.
“I believe we have among us people who can do a good job provided they have the support they need,” he said. “In football, your bosses and fans’ backing is everything”.
“If you look at what Eric (Nshimiyimana), (Vincent) Mashami, Kayiranga and I did during the time we served as interim coaches, you would find that we are capable of delivering results,” he added.
Rwandan coaches have largely been restricted to brief Amavubi spells between the old and incoming regimes of foreign coaches.
However, Rwandan CAF instructor Antoine Rutsindura said that for a Rwandan to be handed the Amavubi job, it would be down to their individual abilities and qualification levels and not just because they are Rwandan.
“It should be about merit, not simply because McKinstry is no longer in charge,” he said. “It should depend on one’s capacity to do the job better and deliver results”.
“Personally, I think, local coaches have the ability but they have to prove it once they have been given the opportunity, whoever gets such a chance should work hard, win games, and prove the critics wrong,” he stated.
McKinstry, a former Sierra Leonean national football head coach, was handed his sacking letter on Thursday afternoon having earlier told Times Sport that he had only learnt about the decision to show him the exit door through the media.
Meanwhile, asked about the possibility of a Rwandan coach replacing McKinstry on a permanent basis, PS Rugambwa said he believed that Rwandan coaches were capable and needed to be given a chance to prove themselves.
Rugambwa suggested that a couple of Rwandan coaches could match or even better McKinstry’s performances with the Amavubi.
“I think Rwandans have the capacity to lead the national team, which is why we have decided that the game against Ghana be handled by local coaches.”
Of Amavubi’s 25 games under McKinstry, they won 11, drew two and lost a dozen games.
The newly appointed interim head coach, Mulisa, also doubles as the assistant technical director for the local football governing body, Ferwafa.
Rugambwa said they were looking for another coach who will be working with Mulisa, along with current goalkeeper coach Ibrahim Mugisha.