Rwandan football suffered a humiliating ‘evolution’ in 2007. The country’s hope to qualify for 2008 African Nations Cup was the only continental championship event that everyone eyed but it was the same poor preparations which hindered our qualification.
The manner of our failure to make it to Ghana was noticed soon after Michael Nees’s team, way short of confidence lost 0-3 to Cameroon at home as well as two more consecutive loses away to Liberia (3-2) and Equatorial Guinea (3-1).
The era of the Germany born ‘coach’ Nees was characterized with negativity from the day he set foot on Rwandan soil right until the day he left—no wonder he was never anyone’s favorites.
It is the period when the country’s FIFA rankings fell rapidly; from 109 to 123 and so many worse instances went on unnoticed in and around the team. Failure was just inevitable.
Erratic away form
Nees’s charge of the Amavubi Stars failed to end a three-year wait to secure an away victory, the latest away win at the continental level, was away to Uganda courtesy of Jimmy Gatete’s lone strike.
The country’s leading striker then, ensured Rwanda’s first appearance at the African Nations’ Cup finals held in Tunisia.
Nees, like his technical assistants; Eric Nshimiyimana and Claude Ishimwe were never up to the job. The trio is the most inept trainers to ever handle the national team in recent history. They just didn’t have a crew about what they were doing!
However, the national football body, Ferwafa had a hand in the country’s failure to qualify for Ghana 2008.
How can a country with the least experienced professional players fail to summon them for national duty just because of personal disagreements between themselves (federation officials and the players)?
Well, we might not have beaten Cameroon home and away but at least; it could have been possible against either Liberia or Equatorial Guinea or both.
The only victories in the entire campaign came at home against Liberia and Equatorial Guinea and if only they can repeat that feat when Morocco, Ethiopia and Mauritania come home, Angola 2010 is a real possibility.
Meanwhile, in 2007 a number of new stars were discovered along the way. Ismail Nshutinamagara, Haruna Niyonzima, Eric Gasana or Mbuyu Twite and Abedi Mulenda certainly enhanced their reputations with their match turning displays.
Ferwafa messes up Primus deal
When the former Ferwafa administration struck a four-year deal with Bralirwa through their Primus brand to sponsor the national league, we all hoped for the better. But little did we know that the deal would only last just one year.
The Frw210 millions four-year deal had promised to put our local clubs in a position to develop young talents as well rating the national league among the best in the region.
With only one league season in charge, misunderstandings between Ferwafa and the Bralirwa guys brought the whole deal to an abrupt end.
The dividend of the short deal has been instant. At the recent Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Tanzania, the Amavubi most impressive emerging talent was APR winger Haruna Niyonzima, a product of the 2005/06 Primus sponsored league.
Upstarts Hegman Ngoma, and Jean Claude Ndoli also made a good impression.
The league itself has not been a spectacle to behold with APR having genuine chance to win the league title twice after Bralirwa had intervened to save the country’s national league.
Uefa Cup participation
The country’s professional players Olivier Karekezi who features for Helsingborg in Sweden and Ahmed Ndikumana Gatauti who features Cyprus club Anorthosis rubbed shoulders with some of the best players in Europe in Uefa Cup.
Karekezi’s Helsingborg has already qualified to the last 32 but Ndikumana’s Anorthosis was knocked out of the championship after a 7-2 goal aggregates on the hands of English side Tottenham Hotspurs.
After failing to qualify for the 2008 African Nations’ Cup in Ghana, Ferwafa and the Sports ministry sacked Michael Nees and hired Josip Kuze. The 55-year-old put pen to paper on a two-year renewable deal in October.
The Croat, a former Dynamo Zagreb coach made an instant good impression of what he’s capable of doing, when given support by guiding the Amavubi Stars to second place at the recently concluded GTV sponsored Cecafa Challenge Cup held in Tanzania.
With just two months in charge, Kuze’s side was piped to top prize by a second string Sudan 4-2 on penalties after the full time including extra time had ended 2-2.
However, one thing we shouldn’t forget is the fact that none of the foreign coaches has had a poor start, so maybe we shouldn’t get too carried away with Kuze’s exploits in Dar es Salaam.
For instance, when Nees came, he guided the Amavubi stars to finish third in the Cecafa Cup which was held in Ethiopia but guess what happened after that……
However, the kind of success that Kuze has come with, we hope it will earn our national team a chance to qualify for the 2010 Nations’ Cup whose finals will be held in Angola.
Cecafa Cup-vallain and hero
One of the understimated teams among the eleven countries which took part in the two-week long tournament, Rwanda finished second.
Rwanda started on a low note; recording six points over Eritrea and Djibouti and a loss to Uganda in the group stages.
In the end, Sudan won the tournament, along with the top prize of $30,000, while Rwanda,Uganda's conquerors in the semi-final stage received $20,000 for their second-place finish, courtesy of tournament sponsors GTV.
The Cranes went home with $10,000 after beating Burundi 2-0 in the third-place play-off.
The last minute final failure to bring the Cecafa title home added on the yet another futile attempt by the Amavubi team to qualify for the Nations’ Cup in Ghana this month.
Rwanda that last won the title in 1998, were through to the finals a combination of innocence and compact confidence was the major characteristic on each player.
With the Nations/ World Cup qualifiers kicking off on May 31, Kuze has approximately four months to right the some of the wrong messes with hope of registering a better and consistent run through the qualifying campaign.
Where the national team failed, APR Fc gained. The military side took full advantage of home ground by winning the 2007 Cecafa/Kagame cup club championship.
The cup triumph was APR’s second ever after winning their first regional title in 2004, which they also won on home soil.
In 2007, APR won an unprecdednted quadraple that inluded the national league, Kagame Cup, Amahoro Cup as well as the Lotto Cup.
However, all wasn’t as rosy for Andy Mfutila’s side that was eliminated from the MTN Champions League at the second round of the preliminary stage under scandalous circumstances.
Leading 2-0 from the first leg played in Kigali, APR needed to avoid defeat by more than two goals to progress to the next round but it wasn’t to be as the Togolese side were awarded two controversial penalties.
The Ivorian referee did not only stop at awarding contesious penalties but also sent off four APR players and the rest walked away with at least a booking each.