A week from now, the local football fraternity will have a chance either to retain incumbent president Vincent Nzamwita or vote Félicité Rwemalika as president of Rwanda Football Federation for the next four years.
The two-horse race was one of the hot-button that was pressed last week, when both officials were nominated, and to most observers, it will be a close call be a close call come Election Day Saturday, December 30.
FERWAFA has had four presidents in the last 23 years. Incumbent Nzamwita took over from Celestin ‘Abega’ Ntanungira, who replaced Gen. Jean-Bosco Kazura who resigned in 2011 after taking over from Lt. Gen. Caesar Kazura in 2006.
The first four years of Nzamwitas’ leadership as head of FERWAFA, have been a mixture of everything to do with good and bad ranging from; allegations of lack of accountability, banning of Amavubi from AFCON 2015, failure to introduce a youth league, and Amavubi’s poor performance at continental level.
During his first term in office, Nzamwita made a couple of blunders, some of which have not only damaged his credibility but hypothetically tainted the image of the entire Rwandan football.
The incumbent president has also performed well while in office; this includes maintaining the partnership between FERWAFA and German Football Association (DFB), the signing of a sponsorship TV deal with Tanzania pay TV, Azam, leading to the league changing the name to Azam Rwanda Premier League.
He enticed the Federation Royale Marocaine de Football (FRMF) to sign the Infrastructure development Memorandum of Understanding and technical assistance with Rwanda.
Nzamwita’s administration in partnership with Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee pushed all the first and second division league clubs to have legal status.
He reduced the number of foreign players from five to three on the pitch at a time for each club and stopped naturalized players from featuring in the national teams.
Under his term in office, the construction of FERWAFA Hotel is underway, although it has taken some members of his administration including himself, to courts of law over charges of fraudulent award of the tender.
In the last four years, more coaches have completed the CAF A Coaching License course although that has helped to improve the level of football, either at club or national team levels.
However, to most observers and football fans, change is what is needed if Rwandan football is to take greater heights, some believe that there is the need for a new president to step in and to bring reforms and bring back FERWAFA honour and credibility.
Reforms are necessary and whether Nzamwita or Rwemalika, the head of Rwandan women football, is ready to bring that to light when elected remains to be seen.
If you consider Rwemalika whose long CV speaks for its self, she has been in FERWAFA corridors for so many years as the head of women football in Rwanda.
However, observers from both the male and women clubs have questioned whether she has the appeal to challenge Nzamwita, who most observers, have already predicted as the favourite winner.
Some say, Rwemalika has the passion, and even the leadership skills to lead FERWAFA but lacks the backing of ‘invisible forces’ and money to defeat the incumbent.
Again, some, especially women clubs, have questioned her long stay as head of women’s football where they don’t hold elections like for their male counterparts.
It may not be her fault but some of her critics blame her for the national women team’s (She-Amavubi) performance at the continental level dwindling at a worrying speed. On this front, something fundamental needs to be done to halt the status quo.
Local women football clubs are not rewarded as much or even a 10th of what their male counterparts get—this and so many other related issues in women’s football will be her biggest challenge, if voted to head in a male-dominated sport.
Above and all, whether Nzamwita or Rwemalika is voted as FERWAFA president for the next four years, it won’t matter unless they live up to their expectations by bringing reforms and change that is needed to take Rwanda football to greater heights.
For Rwandan football to rise to a level where every Rwandan feels proud, there is need to have inspiring leadership that is absolutely committed to excellence, discipline and national pride just like the Rwandan government.
The next FERWAFA president should have a nationalistic approach to running the federation in order to transform the beautiful game so that clubs, national teams (both men and women) and the fans won’t settle for anything less than the glory they’ve tasted before.