As government offers full support to cricket after a decade
It was a day, a moment of truth, December 11, 2010, when what started as a seemingly ambiguous dream adventure by a couple of local university students 10 years ago, turned into something special, a day when Rwanda’s cricket family was celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The celebrations stared with an entertaining ‘international’ T20 game between a home select side (Abakambwe) and their visiting counterparts from Uganda (Abagurusi), which the hosts, who were set what seemed a daunting 104-runs target, won with four balls to spare.
The game was played under a cool midmorning Saturday weather, and its outcome, regardless of the winner, set a resounding tone for what was going to be a memorable evening … and all through the night for those that have been involved in bringing cricket in this country to where it is at the moment.
Earlier in the day, Africa Cricket Association (ACA) Chief Executive Officer, Cassim Suliman, who is also the International Cricket Council’s Regional Development Manager for Africa, together with Sports and Culture minister Joseph Habineza commissioned the first ever all-cricket ground in Rwanda.
All through the day, Rwanda Cricket Association, RCA was marking a milestone (10 years of existence), and as a norm for anything as big an achievement as this occasion, speeches were made by different dignitaries, and for the obvious reasons, some in the crowd were always going to be interested in what came out of the horse’s own mouth as, and in this case, minister Habineza was on hand.
As a politician, they always come up with something to appease the masses but in this case, everything was different and the ground wasn’t set for populist speeches, so whoever said what on this day is forever going to be held accountable at some point, possibly after another 10 years.
With a clear picture of what this day, December 11, 2010 was all about, minister Habineza like all the other key speakers, had to be sure of his words and their wording, so when he promised the government’s full support to cricket, he sounded like a man meaning business.
There was no so much politics in his unwritten speech, just what the crowd wanted to hear, and with specialized crowds like the one which was gathered at Manor Hotel in Nyarutarama, he had to pull of something special or else no one will be interested.
One from the hat, “When Charles (Haba, RCA head), first came to my office talking about his ideas and programs for cricket, I could not see the difference between him and cricket (in Rwanda). Whenever I saw him, I saw cricket, but I was wrong.”
“(Despite all the wrong signals) but he never gave up, he kept coming and when I see something like this (referring to the occasion), I must say, I was wrong, this man is an achiever,” a seemingly honest Habineza admitted.
But that’s not what the crowd wanted to hear though they liked his honesty to put his hand up and admit he was wrong on cricket before, so when he said, “we have been supporting cricket lately but with the (great) strides the game has taken in a short period, I promise that cricket will get full support from the government,” the crowd seemed to love every word.
After showing off his skills early in the day at the ground, along with ICC’s Cassim Suliman before the T20 game between a Rwanda select side against their Ugandan counterparts, Habineza was at his best when giving his speech, promising that his ministry will do everything possible to secure a second ground for RCA.
“Cassim was telling that if we (Rwanda) have two grounds, we can host an international tournament and after we discussed, I promise that my ministry will secure for you (RCA) a second ground so that can achieve that target,” the minister further endeared himself to the cricket family.
After such genuine promises, it would be hard for the Rwandan cricket fraternity not to forgive the minister, years after he dismissed the game was “not a priority” to his ministries concerns.
Growing with every step
As RCA’s Haba put it, when the Gentleman’s game was started in Rwanda 10 years ago, little did anyone (including himself and all his colleagues) know that the game will go on to become one of the most loved sport in the country.
With a steady foundation, RCA has taken the game to schools, first with Kigali and they continue to do so, and they’re now taking it to upcountry schools.
According to Haba, “The schools development programme has unleashed talent and the potential of taking the game to the greatest of heights is vast.”
He’s however quick to note that “complacence” is not about to “gain entry” anywhere near the “wickets within Rwanda”. “Talent hunting and skills polishing will continue to dominate the agenda of Rwanda Cricket Association”
Following the unbelievable success with the inter-schools competitions where the competitions have been, in Haba’s words “very prime in consolidating the strength of the teen teams”, RCA plans to take the game to the higher institutions of learning.
In just tens years, Rwanda is now an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC), the national teams at all levels have participated and continue to in continental competitions and one thing has been constant, improvement.