Yesterday, the national U-17 soccer team departed for London - their first leg in a series – to play preparatory games in the built up to the June 2011 World Cup finals in Mexico.
The Junior Amavubi Stars qualified for the World tournament after edging out Africa’s top foot-balling countries including Egypt and Burkina Faso, during the qualifying stages earlier this year.
This feat qualifies the U-17 team as the first ever Rwandan football side to play in a World Cup. The last time Rwanda was represented at an elite football tournament was in 2004, when the Senior Amavubi Stars played in the African Cup of Nations finals. Local football has since been struggling.
However, the move by the national football governing body, FERWAFA, to invest in youth football, especially through the introduction of football academies, from which the majority of the current U-17 team was drawn, looks poised to establish Rwanda as a truly footballing nation.
The success of the U-17 Amavubi team, yet again, proves that the country is not short of talent. All that is needed is continued investment, preparations and commitment from all stakeholders.
The academies should be strengthened to continuously identify and nurture talented youth. In addition, parents, schools and the community should encourage and support sports among children.
As the team embarks on their journey to Mexico, Rwandans should collectively show their support. In sports, the fan base makes the difference.