Many soccer fans in the East and Central African region were surprised by the sad news that Atraco football club and 2009 Kagame Cup Champions had withdrawn from all local competitions citing financial constraints.
This is a shame not only to Rwanda’s football but also to the CECAFA region. One cannot believe how a club of champion’s status can rise one morning and fall next day.
Personally, I think the taxi-men side lacked collapsed due to lack of visionary leaders, who would run the club professionally. The club managers lacked proper strategies in the management of their team.
Before spending thousands of dollars to purchase players from Uganda and Democratic republic of Congo, Atraco as a club should have embarked on dealing will local talents to minimize costs, which would eventually lead to the development of the national game.
A youth team that inspired them to first division should have been developed to high levels. Coach Aloys Kanamugire is one of experienced soccer experts around, and Atraco should have used him to scout young stars around instead of blowing money on established stars from across the region.
Like Etincelles, other local clubs can also develop a team from youth ranks to senior level. Entincelles was playing second division football a year and half ago but went on to be the surprise package of last season, finishing first runners up APR in the National Primus League on their return to top flight division.
Unlike Atraco, Enticelles patience has paid off and the future looks bright for Western Province based club.
May be developing from youth ranks would have delayed Atraco’s rise to the champion’s status but atleast should have saved them from liquidation and subsequent collapse.
Reports indicate that before dissolution, club had not paid players and coaching staff salaries for three months estimated in millions of francs. No single football club can afford to compete at top level with such debts because you will not have the personnel to do the job.
Atraco were national champions in 2008 and went on to win the Cecafa/Kagame Club Championship in 2009, indicating that the club had established itself as one of the best teams not only in Rwanda but in the region.
In order to establish a football club, you need to embark on youth soccer development programs first because this is where you can get a pool of players to support the club in future, especially if you don’t have a long term and sustainable financial muscle to run the club.
It is important to mention that a professionally run soccer academy is worth a football club competing in a national league. But most importantly, academy expenses are much less than that of a football club because you do not have to spend on monthly wages.
For Atraco and their financiers (ATRACO, the local public transport umbrella body), perhaps they wanted to make publicity and its establishment might have been inspired by marketing strategies not football or other sporting ambitions.
Running a football club is not like running a coffee cooperative were at one season production becomes high or low due to climate changes.
Football is not an easy business; before you develop and promote any football club, you need to balance the input and output very well. Having young and talented players is the greatest asset you can find at any club world over.
It is well documented that maintenance of foreign players is always very expensive as compared to the local. And Atraco had three-quarters of its squad foreigners.
In modern football, you can only get long term productive players from youth levels. Lack of youth development programs to any club is like building a house without a foundation.
Today, most of the clubs in Rwanda are supported by districts with funds from the government; Clubs should not expect blank cheques or money from sponsors or government but instead seek other ways to cover their operating costs.
In marketing football or any sport, you need to produce or attract talented players at the club to earn revenues from publicity and prizes of different nature. In such circumstances, marketing becomes easy because corporate companies are always interested in working with successful clubs.