The past three weeks have been eventful for local football fans with the resignations of high-level officials of the Fédération Rwandaise de Football Association (FERWAFA); association president - Brig. Gen. Jean Bosco Kazura, Chief Executive - Jules Kalisa; and the Amavubi head coach - Sellas Tetteh.
Their departure came hot on the heels of the embarrassing 5-0 Amavubi home defeat to the Elephants of Ivory Coast, which left Rwanda reeling at the bottom of Group H of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Whereas the writing was on the wall for the Amavubi coach, the resignations of Kazura and Kalisa came as a surprise. It’s a culture we’re not used to. Gen. Kazura was just half-way through his second term, while Kalisa was a FIFA-salaried official, who had been the technical face of the country’s football for more than a decade.
For obvious reasons, their exit was greeted with a deep sigh of relief by many fans who were both infuriated and disappointed by the continued lacklustre performance of the national team, which condemned the country to one of her worst FIFA rankings ever.
The fans were justified. They demonstrated by boycotting games, including the league. It is telling that the team has only managed three points out of a possible 15 in the ongoing CAN qualifiers, the worst run since 2004.
Jules Kalisa and co. are responsible for the very conditions that raised public expectations, yet they could not live up to the challenge. And, fans have stubbornly but admirably refused to lower the bar. They have tasted success before, and will not settle for anything less. The historic wins that clinched the Amavubi Stars that coveted spot at CAN finals, seven years ago, were plotted and delivered by Kalisa and his colleagues. Under ex-FERWAFA president Gen. Caesar Kayizari and Kalisa’s leadership, Amavubi enjoyed their best spell ever.
That success was anchored on both a proud home record and decent away performances, thanks to passionate and results-oriented football.
However, FERWAFA failed to build on that success, resulting in an era of mediocrity on the pitch and mass exodus from the stands. One of the main reasons behind the team’s fall from grace was lack of a clear strategy for the both medium and long term.
Until only about three years ago did FERWAFA begin to look interested in building a squad around young home-grown players.
Further more, FERWAFA officials had practically gone AWOL, succumbing to internal power struggles, wasteful expenditure, and trivial intrigues. It was so bad that they failed to organise international friendlies! Our game moved from bad to worse. We now seem to have hit rock bottom.
Thanks to FIFA’s youth football philosophy, Rwanda today boasts one of the most exciting and talented young teams. The former U-17s, now U-20s, were a revelation at the recent U-17 World Cup finals in Mexico. But I don’t seem to see much in terms of grooming younger blood.
Still, there is no concrete plan for the current U-20 side. The ministry in charge of sports recently instructed clubs not to recruit any of the team members, although the likes of SC Kiyovu and Mukura FC had already bought a few of them during the transfer window. The directive did not only compel the clubs to release their new recruits, but also required Rayon Sport to part ways with their defender Faustin Usengimana because he happens to be in the U-20 side! Private investors like SEC Academy were left stunned after they, too, were told they can’t sell off their players as long as they were members of the junior Wasps!
On face value, the ministry’s concerns are logical. Indeed, many fans are worried that the boys’ form could dip should they fail to become regular starters in clubs, as it has happened with many home-grown, promising players at APR FC.
But the ministry lacks a credible Plan B. Beyond the directive, it lacks a convincing alternative, and suggestions that the boys will play as a club in the league raises more questions than answers: To whom will they be answerable, who will foot the bill? et cetera. The league has resumed yet there seems to be no way forward! As the technical organ, FERWAFA should not have let all this to happen; they need to have a plan.
Going forward, I am of the view that, after two active military generals at the helm of FERWAFA, it’s time we tried a civilian. I believe, for various reasons, a civilian head would be easier to hold to account, and would dedicate the time needed to revamp our football.
In all fairness, the recent FERWAFA resignations were worthwhile, if not long overdue. Their curve was in free fall!