The customary pre-season preparations are over and the 2016/17 national football league season got underway yesterday with one game between Rayon Sports and Police FC.
That said, teams that are expected to challenge for the title are all known and it’s not very difficult to predict those that are expected to fight for survival to stay in the top flight division.
Saturday Sport reporter Jejje Muhinde takes a look at all the 16 teams in the topflight league and their prospects for the season.
Defending champions APR FC have made their point clear, they want a record-extending 17th league title in 23 years and the question is how will they fare as defending champions?
They are heading into the new season without a head coach; however interim coach Yves Rwasamanzi has enjoyed a superb pre-season after guiding the AS Kigali Pre-season tournament title defeating DR Congo giants AS Vita Club 1-0 in the final.
While other clubs are still busy with subplots in the transfer window, the Army side looks to be done after bringing on nine new faces including; last season top score Muhajiri Hakizimana from Mukura Victory Sports.
As usual, the 2016 Peace Cup winners have all the right reasons to make all of the loud noises that they can win the league ahead of the new season.
Undeniably, a couple of initiatives have been made notwithstanding the signing of Malian striker Moussa Camara to replace his compatriot Ismail Diarra and Ugandan forward Davis Kasirye, who both scored 26 goals of the 50 the Blues managed in the league last season to finish second.
With an estimated Rwf200m planned budget, Rayon still think they need another striker to beef up their attacking line.
Coach Djuma Masudi has committed his future at the club after renewing his contract for another three seasons but still has a task at hand, ‘win the title or face the usual drama.’
As part of their preparation for a major assault this season, the Blues have renewed contracts of their outstanding players, including; midfielder Pierrot Kwizera, Djabel Manishimwe, Kevin Muhire and Savio Dominique Nshuti among others.
Their tactical discipline and team ethics exhibited by Godfroid Okoko last season when they finished third was hugely encouraging, whether they will do the same this campaign, remains to be seen.
Already they’ve lost key players who led them to that level, but have managed to bring in new faces to boost the squad.
However, the departure of one of their key management executives Sheikh Hamdan Habimana; a former Secretary General is a worrying distraction to the players and coach.
Will they win the title or finish in the top three like last season, only book markers can certainly tell so. With all respect, all they need is to work their socks off in a similar fashion every single day of the week in the new campaign.
The decision to organize a preseason tourney, after pursuing a mixture of experienced and young blood players signals intent and points to an exciting performance in the upcoming season.
The City of Kigali sponsored club, moved fast to sign goalkeeper Jean Claude Ndoli and strikers Bernabe Mubumbyi as well as Michel Ndahinduka.
The trio addition signings also includes; renowned attacker Kabange Twite, Uganda strike Karim Ndugwa and Alex Nkomeje from Sunrise FC.
Coach Eric Nshimiyimana has a good and experienced squad to launch an attack for the title this time around; he is letting fans feel like Christmas has come one month early.
The Mumena based club is still in the dark, despite signing a two young names from Burundi; Francis Mustafa and Blaise Bigirimana. Hopefully the new executive management will do something otherwise, their 23 trophy drought still continues.
It is good that the law and order team spokesperson Chief Inspector of Police Jean de Dieu Mayira understands that they had loopholes after some of their players committed their future to other clubs.
The club made a significant upgrade during the transfer securing Hussein Habimana, goalkeepers Danny Nduwayo and Milafa Nizeyimana all from Etincelles. They have seven new faces in the team.
How successful is the new coach Innocent Seninga likely to be will only become clear in the first leg of the season.
They will be a threat, because of the new coach and some good players. Coach Mashami has said, they can do better and finish in a good position hopefully a fifth position will be nice.
Moving to Nyagatare district, and the election of a new committee, the feel-good factor is not good like in the 2014/2015 season. Top 8 would suit them since they have revamped a total of 15 new players and appointing Nigerian Andrew Ibeh as the new head coach on a two-year contract.
It will be a real financial struggle for the Northern Province based club, having lost the sponsorship package when the main sponsor Gicumbi district filed an Rwf800m deficit in the Rwf 1.2billion tax collection set target.
Realistically, they don’t hope to win the title unless when miracles happen, which I highly doubt to happen.
They are well acknowledged on how to survive relegation; hopefully they can still do the same and finish in the top 12.
They head into the new season with a new coach Emmanuel Ruremesha, after losing Seninga to Police. The club hopes, the new coach will guide them to a respectable position. They also wish to compete for places in the top half of the table which is not possible.
It is one of the clubs which have lost their top cream in the transfers; they go into the new season with a sense of dangerously unfinished business.
Acquiring ex-Amavubi player Hamadi 'Katauti' Ndikumana as the assist coach is step forward given his vast experience both locally and at the international level.
Head coach Sosten Habimana, there has not been moderate if you compare, they signed Kike Segawa (Uganda), Congolese striker Pignole Moike and center-back Francoise Hakizimana.
They need to perform better, to avoid the dilemma of a narrow relegation survival similar to what has been happening in the last three seasons.
Kirehe and Pepiniere:
There is nothing so much you would tell the new debutants but to welcome them to the top division since they have lots of lessons to learn and their survival will largely depend on what their rivals do than what they themselves can actually do.