It is not easy being a fan of the Amavubi. Every time a new manager comes in, along comes a belief that this time around it will all come together. It never does.
The new era comes, goes, and it is the same old story over again: sack the manager; replace him with a Rwandan on an interim basis; sack the interim manager regardless of his immediate or future potential; replace him with a foreign manager, preferably from a third-tier European league; pay the European a mouth-watering salary; set him targets; expect him to deliver even though you know very well that the foundations on which he will be operating under wouldn’t favour even the most serial winner of managers such as Pep Guardiola.
In short, our method has been: appoint – expect glory – fail – sack – repeat. Not enough thought, planning, development, and resources are applied in this formula, and yet, without these fundamental pillars, all we are doing is continue to operate within the parameters Albert Einstein would have described as insane doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Of course, football is an unpredictable game; it breaks hearts everywhere. Since the retirement of legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, as a Manchester United fan, I have been miserable. But that’s nothing when I compare with Arsenal fans whose last major triumph was way back in the 2003-04season when they last won the league. Football is cruel that way.
Back to Rwandan football; last year I wrote about how officials at Rwanda’s football governing body, Ferwafa, were dealt a blow when Stephen Constantine, a man they had trusted to deliver success with the national team suddenly resigned and went to coach the Indian national team.
Then came Northern Irish coach, Johnny McKinstry; hired to bring success. However, 15 months into his job, McKinstry received his marching orders for failure to bring success to the national team. And, in the immediate aftermath of his sacking, media reports indicated that Jimmy Mulisa, McKinstry’s assistant coach, had been handed the role on an interim basis, before it later transpired that the role had actually been handed to APR’s Gilbert Kanyankore only hours later. Astonishingly, Kanyankore’s tenure lasted a matter of days as negotiations had reportedly stalled, which paved way for the reinstatement of Mulisa. Confused? You aren’t alone.
In any case, as Ferwafa officials scout the world over for a suitable replacement, I am going to make the case, again, that the rebuilding of our national team should and must begin with the appointment of a Rwandan coach at the helm, followed by a genuine top-down rebuilding process.
Of course, there is this argument that in most cases it does not really matter the colour of the cat, what matters is that the cat catches mice. This is true, but on this occasion, I believe that the cat’s success would depend largely on how familiar it is with the hunting ground.
Hear me out:
I do acknowledge that Ferwafa are free to hire whomever they feel fits their bill to bring them success regardless of the colour of their passport. It is true that at times local coaches lack the technical know-how to coach at the highest level. We have seen African heavyweights, including Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Nigeria, all appoint more foreigners than nationals.
But has this strategy yielded results? Not really especially when you consider that despite glimpses of magic when nations like Cameroon and Nigeria beat the likes of Argentina in 1990 and Spain in 1998, respectively, African nations have generally performed poorly on the international stage. The best performing African nations at the last World Cup in Brazil (Nigeria and Algeria) were defeated in the knockout stages.
In any case, why do I argue for a local coach to be hired as the first step in rebuilding Rwandan football? Simple; local coaches have talent, and they are intimately familiar with our footballing environment.
It is my belief that we have in our possession many up-and-coming as well as already-established coaches who have demonstrated expertise at local level, where they have succeeded when given a chance. The likes of Vincent Mashami who has a league title under his belt and has also previously acted as Amavubi caretaker, Eric Nshimiyimana, Jimmy Mulisa and Gilbert Kanyankore, to name but four.
The familiarity with local leagues, language, and player behaviour, all added to the technical know-how can all help to nurture talent, improve technical communication, and also motivate young players into players we can be proud of. Football isn’t just about technic, it is also about attitude – ask Stoke City fans.
In addition, local coaches are more likely to scout the country in search of talented young players much better than foreign ones because they have been in the local game long enough to know where to look, who to speak to – basically, where to concentrate their limited resources.
And while it is true that Rwandan football standards have improved somewhat, we are still far behind most other nations who have graced glory, after all, our pinnacle moment has been to qualify – only once, I should add – for the African Cup of Nations finals where we were also eliminated in round one. Likewise, I don’t know about you, but as an avid spectator of European leagues, I would also love to one day see a fellow countryman compete against the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, or Pogba. But, this can only happen if we dismantle the current system which clearly isn’t working.
To sum up, rebuilding our national football team should begin with a dose of home-grown coaches; in many other areas, home-grown solutions have worked wonders, so why not in football? We can kick-start improving the state of our football by focusing first on understanding the obstacles that have continued to inhibit local footballers and coaches from realising their goals. This may require a complete overhaul, and the question is; are we prepared to do so?
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