THEY say ‘always enjoy the moment while you still can or while it lasts’.
On Tuesday, Rwandans even those in the Diaspora had (have) every reason to celebrate following the country’s qualification for the 2011 Fifa U-17 World Cup.
While it is the first time Rwanda has qualified for a football World Cup, Rwanda has played in a number of World Cups.
The National Paralympics sitball team has played in the last three Word Cup editions, including last year’s were the team were crowned world champions after dethroning Germany in Kampala, Uganda.
But with due respect to the Paralympics team, in a Fifa World Cup, we are talking about a global tournament with the best soccer teams in the world, aired on different television channels across the globe. The difference in international interest for the two events (Paralympics and Fifa World Cup) is as plain as day and night.
Unlike all the seven other teams taking part in the 9th Caf African Youth U-17 Championship, Rwanda’s Junior Wasps didn’t have to go through the rigors of qualifying, but took full advantage of home support to realize a dream.
Talking of realizing a dream, and they don’t come any bigger than Rwanda playing at the finals of a Fifa World Cup at any level, and for that to come at the youth level, is perhaps a sign of (better) things to come in the future.
For years, the national football federation, Ferwafa and the Sports Ministry have been talking in big volumes as far as youth development is concerned, so with the U-17 team qualifying for the World Cup, you can now start to sense a change in the mood (of the fans), most of whom had vowed never to step foot in the stadium to watch the national team play.
On Tuesday, after the Junior Wasps did what they were required to do, which was to beat Egypt and book a place in the semifinals of the African tournament, they also made history not only to qualify for the World Cup but as the first African team to be assured of a place on the plane to Mexico for the June tournament.
It was all ecstasy inside the Kigali Regional stadium in Nyamirambo at full time as Rwanda pulled off a memorable 1-0 win over the pre-tournament favourites Egypt, who lifted the title in 2005.
Credit must go to the team’s coaching staff led by Richard Tardy, who have done and are still doing a remarkable job to turn raw talent into potential real talent. The Junior Wasps showed no sign of respect for the Young Pharaohs, and that’s a sign of the job well done at the training ground.
Sports minister Joseph Habineza described the team’s achievement of qualifying for the World Cup as the “best day” since becoming minister in 2005, while Ferwafa president Brig. Gen. Jean Bosco Kazura summed the moment after the final whistle in just two words, “Joy and happiness”.
And indeed, it was all happiness as all Rwandans, young, old, rich, poor, tall and short inside the stadium hugged and shook hands endlessly as the seeds of youth development are starting to bear fruits.