The last time the national team (Amavubi) played a competitive game was during the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Ghana, last September when both teams shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Accra Sports Stadium.
The Black Stars had already qualified for the finals tournament but the visitors, under interim head coach, Jimmy Mulisa, needed maximum points to push through as one of the best second-placed teams.
It was another disappointing result for the Wasps, who had suffered a 2-3 home loss to Mozambique under Northern Irishman, Johnny McKinstry.
McKinstry was fired after a disastrous AFCON and 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. The 30-year-old was in charge for 25 matches, winning 11, drawing two and losing 12.
Fast forward, Rwanda turned to former Kenyan coach Antoine Hey to steer the ship. This week, the German tactician named his 25-man squad for next month’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Central African Republic.
Looking at his squad, Hey is doing something different from what those before him did, he is not relying entirely on two teams (APR FC and Rayon Sports) to select his players but from all teams to try and create a balanced selection.
Striker Gilbert Mugisha from relegated side Pepiniere FC must have been shocked to the marrow when he heard that he had been summoned to the national team for the first time.
Hey’s selection of players from different clubs shows he has been watching the league very carefully – it shows that his selection was based on performance rather than pedigree. The local players will be joined by a few experienced foreign-based players.
The German tactician has brought some anticipation to Amavubi followers, with some now saying that the coach is thoughtful and attempting to do something different from the failures of the past.
This change in approach will make Rwandans to eagerly await for the results from Hey’s first official match in charge as Amavubi head coach.
Hey is managing a team that is ranked 118th in the world and 34th on the continent. Success at the continental level has proved to be elusive in the past to the effect that fans have lost sense of hope due to painful experience of the previous failed qualification campaigns since 2004.
On the other hand, the same people eagerly waiting for Hey’s first match in charge, could also be questioning whether he has what it takes to succeed, and whether he will successfully steer the team through the storm and the landmines that lie menacingly ahead.
For now, Amavubi will operate under less scrutiny, but the German knows that ultimately the demands are the same just like his previous demands in Kenya, the Gambia and Lesotho and or even much higher.
Whether he is accustomed to working under pressure, that remains to be seen and only time will tell.
In the history of Rwandan football, out of the 19 coaches that have managed the national team, only one, Ratomir Dujkovic has ever survived for three years from 2001-2004.
He led Amavubi to a historic qualification for the first time, to the 2004 finals tournament in Tunisia.
However, how Hey is judged will come down to how Amavubi performs in the AFCON 2019 Cameroon and CHAN 2018 Kenya qualifiers.
If he does, surely he will retain his job without doubt but failure will represent yet another disappointment, and the revolving door will take us to another coach.
Qualification to Cameroon will be a great achievement not only for Amavubi and the fans but also for the 47-year-old because it will be an A+ to his career.