EVERY TIME Rwanda fails to qualify for any major competition, there is always a call to go back to the drawing board with the hope it will help bring better results.
It is no different this time around after Amavubi Stars failed to make it to the last round of the 2014 Brazil World Cup qualifiers after finishing bottom of their group with just two points from a possible 18.
The last time Rwanda qualified for a major event was in 2004 when a patched-up Amavubi team made it to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations held in Tunisia.
Since then it has been a tale of missed chances that has claimed many coaches on the way. One of the major reasons for the failure to qualify for a major competition is the lack of proper youth structures.
Without age group teams, a lot of talent has gone to waste over the years as players have nowhere to go and many are forced to give up on their career even before achieving anything.
When the last matches of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers were played, one team that stood out from the rest was definitely Ethiopia, also known as the Walia Antelopes.
Having followed their progress for a long time, many pundits widely know Ethiopia for its prowess in athletics rather than football.
The Walia Antelopes have no known superstars but they play like a well-oiled machine and that’s why they defied all odds and reached the World Cup play-offs. They’re this region’s flag bearers and we can only wish them the best of luck in the final round.
When the qualifiers started, no one gave Ethiopia a chance and they were considered the ‘David’ among the top ‘Goliath’ teams. And today they remain the talk of Africa and the pride of East Africa.
No East African country has ever qualified for the World Cup. Africa has five slots but Ethiopia can dare to dream, causing another twist in the tale that now sees them among the top teams that have qualified for the tough playoffs.
Secret behind Ethiop’s success
The eye-catching exploits of Ethiopia cannot be mentioned without including the name of head coach Sewnet Bishaw, who has proved that local coaches can reach the very top when given the same backing and incentives as their foreign counterparts.
The veteran tactician has instilled discipline, self-belief and confidence in his team to lead them to where they are right now.
The secret of their great success lies in unity, teamwork, hard work and commitment as well as the belief that the name in front of the jersey (ETHIOPIA) is more important than the name at the back of the jersey.
This means they do not believe in playing as individuals but rather as a team, something that can not be said in Rwanda’s case.
If you look at this 2014 World Cup campaign in terms of results achieved, it appears as if it has been an exercise in futility. It’s only when you look at progress made on the playing staff and how new players have been included at various stages of preparation, that you will see this as progress.
A total of 36 players managed to start in six World cup qualifiers under Serbian Milutin Micho Sredojovic and current coach Eric Nshimiyimana.
What has stalled the development of our national team in my view is consistency in the management of the squad.
To look to the future
Ferwafa and the ministry of sports and culture need to pick a few lessons from Ethiopian football and make powerful youth structures but in the same spirit, encourage the upcoming players to be ambitious and work harder for their country.
There is nothing disappointing to find the government injecting lots of money into the game and at the end of the day there is nothing to show for this.
With the Cecafa Senior Championship and 2015 Afcon qualifiers just around the corner, the biggest challenge for Amavubi and Ferwafa is to hold onto Nshimiyimana and make sure he is given the necessary support to ensure there is some consistency in the way the national team is managed.
It’s time for the relevant authorities to build on the small strides that Nshimiyimana has made with a tight group of young and committed players so that we can begin to have realistic hopes to qualify for important competitions.