It is almost 13 years since Rwanda last competed at the African Cup of Nations (CAN), which was also the first time. Rwanda’s failure to register much success in football can be attributed to various reasons, among them, the lack of enough resources and manpower to develop the beautiful game to a higher competitive level.
Over the past years, the country has produced a host of talented footballers and coaches.
On the home front, local coaches seem to enjoy the trust of the local clubs as 13 of the 16 top flight division league clubs are under the hands of Rwandan trainers.
This week, Saturday Sport profiles one of fast-rising Rwandan coach Innocent Seninga, the head coach of national league side, Police FC. The 37-year-old tactician is currently one of the most qualified Rwandan trainers.
Seninga joined Police FC at the start of this season from Rubavu-based Etincelles, replacing Andre Cassa Mbugo, who led the club to the 2015 Peace Cup title.
Police are in third place with 39 points, one point behind reigning champions APR FC in second place and a further four points adrift of league leaders Rayon Sports—however, Seninga’s team had the chance to leapfrog APR in second place with a win over Musanze FC on Friday.
His attacking duo of Danny Usengimana (13 goals) and Justin Mico (12 goals) is the most dangerous pair in the league this season having scored a combined 25 goals of the total 30 goals that Police have scored in 20 matches.
Born on December 30, 1979 in Lugazi, Buikwe district in Uganda to Francis Nsengiyumva and Marie Mutumende, Seninga is the second born in a family of six – three boys and three girls.
He attended Mukingo Primary school in Nyanza District, South of Rwanda and Groupe Scolaire St. Joseph Kabgayi before joining former Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), now University of Rwanda, College of Education and graduated in 2007 with a Bachelors Degree in Physical Education and Sports.
The highly-rated tactician is a happily married to Sonia Mahoro and they are blessed with two children; a boy; Anderson Smith Iyumva Seninga and a girl, Gaella Shami Seninga.
Seninga holds four qualifications that no other Rwandan has achieved on top of a CAF A License, the highest level of coaching license attainable on the continent, making him the most qualified Rwandan coach.
After graduating in 2007, he was sent to Germany by Rwanda Football Federation (FERWAFA) along with Vincent Mashami (Bugesera FC), Sosthene Habimana (Musanze FC) and a one Theonas Ndanguza where they did a Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) ‘C’ License.
From Germany, Seninga continued his pursuit for an advanced coaching career and attained an International postgraduate diploma as a specialist football trainer from Germany in 2013. He also got an International diploma of national coaches from International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS) based in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2015.
Others include; a certificate in FIFA football fitness course which he did in 2013 in ASEC Mimosas in Côte d’Ivoire, and certificate in International course of management on sports events, which he did in 2011 in Beijing, China.
Early days and playing career
Seninga might not be a very famous name as the likes of Jimmy Mulisa, Jimmy Gatete or Hamadi ‘Katauti’ Ndikumana, but the 37-year-old played football at a high level in local football league and even featured for Amavubi, despite ending his playing career pretty prematurely.
“I played football at the highest level,” he told Saturday Sport in an exclusive interview. Seninga says that he began playing seriously while at St. Joseph Kabgayi in senior two as the main striker for his school team.
When he reached senior four, he was spotted and signed by former national league side Flash FC, that was later renamed AS Muhanga, and in senior five (1999), he was selected for the first time in the U-20 national team for CECAFA tournament that took place in Nairobi, Kenya.
“By then, I remember the top players that were in that team included Olivier (Karekezi), Abdul Sibomana, Jean Paul Nsengiyumva and I was the team’s main striker,” he recalls.
Upon return from CECAFA, Seninga was promoted to Flash FC senior team and made his debut in the topflight in the 1999/2000 season.
“After playing my first game with Flash in the topflight, I was picked in the senior national team pre-selection as Amavubi was preparing for the CECAFA tournament, but I didn’t make it to the final list.”
In 2000/2001 season, he was signed by Huye-based Intare FC that was by then also playing in the topflight. However, after just one season, he joined SC Kiyovu where he played alongside current Rayon Sports head coach, Djuma Masudi among others.
He revealed that, “I was rising very quickly and Kiyovu paid Rwf300,000 to sign me from Intare FC, which was a lot of money by then.”
When he joined University in 2002, he decided to end his contract with Kiyovu to focus on his education. However, after one year, he joined second division side Rwandatel FC where he played for one season before crossing to AS Kigali.
After graduation in 2007, Seninga landed a coaching scholarship to Germany hence ending his playing career to concentrate on coaching.
Seninga’s coaching career began in 2011 as a coach for FERWAFA Academy, working specifically with players that did not travel with the team to Mexico for the U-17 World Cup.
Later, Seninga joined second division side Aspoir FC before joining Isonga FC as assistant coach and in 2014/15; he was named the head coach and led the team back to the topflight the following season before leading them to the Peace Cup quarter-finals.
With that achievement, Seninga attracted the attention of several topflight clubs, but he chose his former team SC Kiyovu.
However, at SC Kiyovu, he stayed for a short stint and was snatched by Etincelles towards the end of the 2015/16 season.
He found Etincelles on the brink of relegation but managed to save their season and finished in a more respectable 13th position which brought Police FC calling for his signature to take over from Cassa Mbugo, who had been sacked after a string of poor results.
Best and worst moments
He says his best moment was at Etincelles. “I have to admit that my short spell there was a stepping stone as I proved to anyone that I knew what I was doing, while my worst moment was at Kiyovu where I was never respected, never given time to build my team and they never paid me until today.”
“My ambition is two-fold, first is to promote Rwandan young football talents and turn them into professionals and secondly to be the best coach in Rwanda.”
“A lot of people have supported me throughout my coaching career but those that I would like to thank specifically include; Richard Tardy and national athletics team coach Innocent Rwabuhihi and last but not least, my wife, without her I wouldn’t have made it this far.”