For a while before I started writing this article, I stared at Rwanda’s group for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
After my staring extravaganza, all that remained was a sour taste in my mouth. I sadly realized that the Amavubi sometimes enter these competitions only to fill up space—yes, filling up space.
In literal terms, we compete when we are a tad ill prepared. Sometimes we compete just for the sake, and no wonder we finished uncomfortably at the bottom of the table – with four losses and two draws. Generally, like a punching bag.
The group had two former Africa Nations Cup hosts –Mali in 2002 and Algeria, the group leaders, who hosted the cup in 1990.
The other country in the group, Benin, has participated thrice in Africa Cup, compared to the single time, in 2004 when Rwanda managed to reach the first round in Tunisia.
Now unless we were one hundred percent lucky, there was no way Amavubi would make it through that group. It wasn’t not even the toughest, but all the countries there are somehow, historically, justified to finish above us.
Now here is the bashing statistic. Algeria has 38 stadiums - that is to say; 38 football venues where large crowds can gather to enjoy a match. The other opponent, Mali, boasts 14 football stadiums, while Rwanda has only… uhmm two.
Of course I appreciate where we are coming from and understand that a lot is being done to ensure that we compete. I am actually joyful, as I noted in an article a fortnight ago, that the government is spending millions to take young Rwandans to European academies for nurturing.
However, we should realise that sometimes, talent is most times, just like a weed. Provide the necessary conditions and it will grow on its own.
And this brings me to the real problem. The problem, in my opinion, is that young people badly want to play football, but they have no place to play from.
Let’s say every primary and secondary school had a football ground where children can play freely after their classes. Let’s say each district had a well leveled playground where the youth can meet to play every evening. Imagine the impact that would have on Rwandan football.
Just make a short trip to Burundi and you will know what I’m talking about—football fields are everywhere, no wonder they have more talent than Rwanda but unfortunately poorer!
We definitely have a long way before we can have as many stadiums as Algeria, but we can start by clearing up some level ground for the youth and the unemployed people in the rural areas.
Lack of playing fields is the reason we don’t have football competitions in primary and high schools, like our neighbouring countries do. Therefore, we are at risk of having an old national football side that doesn’t have worthy replacements.
Attracting investments is a good start, like the Turkish Babilaks company which is expected to construct a US$150m 40,000 capacity stadium in Gahanga sector, Kicukiro District.
There is simply no short cut to revamping Rwandan football. The government, FERWAFA and the few interested private sponsors must go back to the drawing board and start mapping out possible venues for numerous mini playing grounds.
@RushAfrican on Twitter