Yesterday, the national U-17 soccer team made history when it became the first African team to qualify for the June 2011 World Cup finals in Mexico.
The junior Amavubi Stars edged Egypt’s Young Pharaohs 1-0 at Nyamirambo Regional Stadium to maintain 100 percent record in the ongoing 9th edition of the Confederation of African Nations (CAN) Youth Championship, after an earlier 2-1 victory over Burkina Faso in their opening game.
Yesterday’s triumph means that the youthful team will be the first ever Rwandan football side to play in a World Cup tournament. The last time Rwanda was represented at an elite football tournament was in 2004 when the senior Amavubi Stars played in the CAN finals. Since that time, local football standards have, unfortunately, been on the decline.
However, the FIFA-backed move to invest in youth football, especially through the introduction of football academies, including the Amavubi Academy – from which majority of the current U-17 team members were drawn – looks poised to establish Rwanda as a truly footballing nation.
The Amavubi Academy, which opened in January 2009, and indeed several other local soccer academies, should be strengthened to continuously identify and nurture talented youth. This will ultimately give rise to a generation of our own committed and reliable football stars.
The success of the U-17 Amavubi team, yet again, proves that this country is not short of talent. All that is required is wise investments, sufficient preparation and consistency. In addition, parents, schools and the rest of the community should partake in the process to identify young talents and give them the necessary guidance. Fans, too, should be patient and continue supporting our players – whether they’re winning or not. With this approach, the future is surely brighter.