Fortress Kigali

2010 World/African Cup Group 8 June 21Morocco    vs  RwandaEthiopia     vs  Mauritania
HEAD BOY:  Saidi Abedi Makasi opened Rwanda’s scoring with a 16th minute header, his third goal in as many matches. (Photo/ G. Barya).
HEAD BOY: Saidi Abedi Makasi opened Rwanda’s scoring with a 16th minute header, his third goal in as many matches. (Photo/ G. Barya).

2010 World/African Cup

Group 8

June 21
Morocco    vs  Rwanda
Ethiopia     vs  Mauritania

After three back-to-back wins, including two at home in the ongoing 2010 World/African Cup preliminary qualifying campaign, local football authorities want to turn Kigali into a fortress ground for visiting teams.

Rwanda’s Amavubi Stars have a relatively good home record in Fifa and CAF competitions, having lost only thrice on home ground in over five years.

In 2005, Zimbabwe beat Rwanda 2-0 at Amahoro stadium during the qualifying campaign for the 2006 Nations’ Cup held in Egypt, lost to Angola 1-0 in the last group game of CAN 2006 qualifying campaign  and to Cameroon 3-0 in 2007 for the 2008 edition held early this year in Ghana.

Saturday’s magnificent 3-1 triumph over Morocco, one of African football giants further prompted some Ferwafa and ministry of Sports officials to declare their intent to turn Kigali a difficult hunting ground for visiting teams.

“I have said it time and again that no team will come to play here (Kigali) and go away with maximum points anymore,” declared local football federation secretary general Jules Kalisa after Saturday’s historic win.

He was supplemented by his boss, Brig. Gen. John Bosco Kazura who said, “With such a team and coaching staff, we must turn Kigali into a difficult place to win for visiting teams.”

“Before, people were complaining about the coach, saying he wasn’t good enough (to handle the team) but see what he has done in a very short time.

“People need to be patient; the fans must get behind him (coach) and the team. If they can manage to do that, no team will come here and go away with a win,” a jovial Kazura stressed.

The Sports ministry Secretary General Jean Pierre Karabaranga said, “This victory has not come cheaply, we’ve invested a lot in the team because we didn’t want to have any excuse for not winning.”

Like all his predecessors, Blanko Tucak had a terrible start to his reign as Amavubi Stars coach, losing 4-0 in Khartoum against Sudan in the first round first leg qualifying round of the inaugural Africa Championship Cup.

He followed it with an uninspired 1-1 draw in the return leg at Nyamirambo stadium, a result that prompted critics to draw their swords.

However, the turning point came after the 3-0 win over Mauritania in the opening 2010 WC/CAN qualifier in Kigali, everyone seemed to change their attitude towards him and his team.

Two more wins against Ethiopia (away) and Morocco at home and the Croatia-born coach has got the backing of the entire nation.

The 2-1 win in Addis Ababa was the first in Fifa and Caf competitions since Rwanda beat Uganda 1-0 in Kampala in 2003 during that infamous match in which Jimmy Gatete scored the all important goal.

In the last five years or so, Rwanda has faced some top continental opposition in Kigali and still held her ground firmly.

Among the African giants to have tested Kigali’s fortressness is Ghana in 2003 (1-0, Gatete’s header), Algeria (1-1), Nigeria in 2005 (1-1) and Morocco 3-1 last weekend.

More encouraging news for Rwanda is that, it’s actually them and Nigeria the only countries with a 100 percent record in the current campaign after three rounds of qualifiers.

That is why even the jovial Prime Minister Bernard Makuza reserved time to visit the Tucak and his heroes in the dressing room after Saturday’s marvelous win.


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