It’s almost four years since Vincent Nzamwita became the president of Rwanda Football Federation (FERWAFA). During that period, so much water has passed under the bridge—a lot has been achieved but so much remains to be done.
With the next election coming on September 20, Saturday Sport looks at what Nzamwita has managed to do and what he has not, and if indeed he is the right man to lead Rwandan football for another four years.
When Nzamwita was first elected in January 2014, he promised to start youth leagues and U15 competition. He even vowed that if he failed to do this, he would resign but to this day, neither of the two has happened.
Over the course of four years, Nzamwita has made a couple of blunders, some of which have damaged his credibility but potentially tainted the image of the entire nation. But he has also done well in some aspects of the game.
Rwanda hosted the 2016 African Nations Championship finals tournament and Amavubi went on to reach the quarter-final stage before losing to the eventual winners, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, most observers say CHAN coming to Rwanda was a not Nzamwita’s effort but rather a collective reward by CAF to the people of Rwanda following Rwanda’s successful hosting of African Youth Championships in 2009 and 2011.
Nzamwita’s best ten achievements
1. He managed to strike a partnership between FERWAFA and German Football Association (DFB), which will focus on technical assistance (coach, referee and player development) and administrative assistance.
2. Nzamwita secured sponsorship of the league with the Tanzanian pay television company Azam TV that pumped US$2.35million to sponsor the national football league for five years.
3. FERWAFA under Nzamwita signed a partnership with Feyenoord to work with Holland’s most successful academy to help with Rwandan football development.
4. He signed another agreement with the Federation Royale Marocaine de Football (FRMF) aimed at boosting Infrastructure development in the country and technical assistance.
5. Nzamwita’s administration also pushed first and second division league clubs to have legal status.
6. He stopped the use of naturalised players in the national team and also reduced the number of foreign players from five to three on the field at the same time.
7. FERWAFA started construction of their hotel, which will help to generate more income that would go into other football development activities on top of accommodating national teams during residential training camps.
8. Under Nzamwita, the local football governing body has started its own clinic at FERWAFA headquarters to deal with injured players.
9. For the first time, 17 local coaches completed the CAF A Coaching License, one of their highest achievement that will not only enable them improve Rwandan football but be able to get jobs outside the country.
10. Nzamwita has built a strong relationship with the world football governing body (FIFA) president Gianni Infantino, who visited Rwanda in February and promised that FIFA would continue to support Rwanda in its plans to take the game to another level.
Whereas FERWAFA, under Nzamwita has achieved some milestones, the administration has had its bad moments, and below is a look at some of them.
1. Nzamwita and his secretary general, Olivier Mulindahabi, appeared before Nyarugunga Primary Court to answer charges of fraud in awarding a tender for construction of a planned 88-room four-star FERWAFA Hotel, which caused Mulindahabiri to be jailed for six months.
2. Rwanda was disqualified from the 2015 Cup of Nations qualifiers following a complaint filed at Confederation of African Football (CAF) by the Republic of Congo, following their qualifier defeat to Rwanda.
This came after Democratic Republic of Congo-born striker Agiti Tady Etekiama, also known as Dady Birori, had been handed a two-year ban by CAF for playing for Rwanda under a different name.
3. Nzamwita courted controversy when he alluded that the Rwandan team that qualified for the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Tunisia, was not a true representation of Rwanda because it has naturalised players.
Nzamwita said, “To me, it is like Rwanda has never featured in any AFCON finals because we had many players, who were not Rwandans during the 2004 edition; we need to plan for sustainability, not for a one-off.”
He later apologised to the nation and the former footballers for belittling Amavubi’s historic achievement.
4. It was also reported in some quarters that Nzamwita was involved in right-back Fitina Ombalenga’s move to sign for Slovakia without the knowledge of his club, SC Kiyovu.
5. The former APR FC secretary general was caught in the storm when he requested to be paid bonuses in 2015 when Amavubi were participating in AFCON qualifiers.
6. Nzamwita appointed a one Latifah Tharcille Uwamahoro as FERWAFA Secretary General to replace Mulindahabi without consulting the general assembly or even members of the executive committee.
7. He promised to start an U15 league and national team in 2015, but it never materialized after it was reported that some money went missing—to this day, no one has been held accountable.
8. During Nzamwita’s first term in office, Rwanda failed to beat Uganda in all age categories, including U17, U23 and senior national team.
As a result of Nzamwita’s failure to address the key issue on which he campaigned to become FERWAFA president, some of members of the federation’s general assembly, have formed a group called ‘Rwanda Football Coalition for Change’ campaigning to bring about ‘fundamental changes’ in the administration of Rwandan football.
The group launched its activities last month. They say their main objective is to change Rwanda football for the better, starting with youth development programmes.
Fidel Kanamugire (Heroes Academy), the group’s spokesperson said that the current FERWAFA leadership has lost focus and needs to be changed for the better.
“For a long time, our football has remained stagnant. It is time for change and we need a leadership which will listen to its members and work to improve our football. We need to build strong relationships with partners and be accountable,” he told Saturday Sport.
He adds that, “For four years, the youth competitions have been mere talk, which is why we need to have change in leadership if we’re get out of this dilemma and have a strong foundation on which to build our football.”
Nzamwita’s critics say FERWAFA needs profound changes and a shift in the way the federation is managed, the quality of the competitions and return to the project of having many young players play football as well as encouraging them.
The modern football mindset is built on those basic foundational principles. Construction begins at the youth level. Players need to start playing from primary through high school and by the time they reach a level of playing for top clubs, they’re better prepared for the challenge.
Some of the changes that Nzamwita’s opponents are advocating for is the length of the national league season that begins in September and runs through July, which they say is too long.
The FERWAFA Electoral Committee has announced the roadmap to the 2017 FERWAFA Executive Committee polls with the nomination process scheduled to start on July 10.
The commission chairman Adolphe Kalisa has confirmed that all aspiring candidates will start picking forms from Monday July 10 to 15 at FERWAFA headquarters in Remera, Kigali.
“We have sent out guidelines to FERWAFA members on the modalities of the upcoming election process for the FERWAFA Executive Committee. We will start on Monday, July 10 at 8am until July 15 at 11am, the scheduled closure time of picking forms,” said Kalisa.
Football is big business and it has to be managed in the same way, so on September 20, FERWAFA members have a duty to choose a person they think is the best suited to take Rwanda football to the next level.