It was a historic moment for Rwanda and the cricket fraternity as the country’s first international cricket stadium was launched on Saturday.
The state-of-the-art Gahanga Cricket Stadium, which sits on 4.5 hectares (11 acres), was inaugurated by President Paul Kagame.
The construction of the permanent home for developing the sport in the country cost $1.3 million (about Rwf950million), mainly raised by international cricket players eager to see the game take off in Rwanda.
The effort was spearheaded by Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation which was set up by Alby Shale, the son of the late British politician and cricket lover, Christopher Shale who visited Rwanda to do aid work.
“We are very happy to have this cricket pavilion and ground built, and by that, we remember Christopher Shale, in whose memory this has been built,” President Kagame said at the opening.
“It is a great pleasure for us to have this facility which will see more young men and women playing and improving their skills. It is also good for us to have partners in the United Kingdom,” he added.
Eric Dusingizimana, the national team captain, helped raise funds for the stadium by setting a Guinness World Record by batting for 51 hours straight last year.
“This is an exciting development for us and the younger generation is going to benefit heavily from this,” said the 31-year-old captain.
Rwanda also holds the world record for women after Cathia Uwamahoro, a national team cricket player, became the first woman to bat for 26 hours.
The new stadium has been built to international standards, making it the first of its kind in the East African region.
The inauguration ceremony attracted over 200 high profile cricket personalities from different parts of the globe, but majority came from the UK.
The facility, which has a luxurious bar (club house), offices and changing rooms, will also have an HIV/AIDS awareness unit to provide testing and counseling services.
For the last 15 years, Rwanda Cricket Association (RCA) estimates that close to 10,000 Rwandans men and women of all ages have been introduced to the ‘gentleman’s game’.
The opening was attended by the Minister of Sports and Culture Juliane Uwacu, Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation (RSCF) Project Director Alby Shale.
Others included; Michael Paul Vaughan (OBE) a former English cricketer captain, Alan Higgin, the Chief Investment Officer at Coutts & Company, former South African cricketer and current CEO of the International Cricket Council (ICC) David John Richardson, Sarah Ferguson the Duchess of York and British writer, as well as William Russell the Sheriff of the City of London, among others.