APR FC head coach Vincent Mashami reveled in a great season as he paid tribute to players, fans and club administrators after their historic Turbo King Football League title triumph.
APR won the historic Rwandan league title on Sunday, two years after they decided to offload foreign players in favour of only Rwandan players as a way of giving a chance to homegrown talent.
The military side were crowned champions without kicking a ball after their final day opponents AS Muhanga failed to turn up for the game following the players’ strike over unpaid salary arrears for four months.
“This is a great day for APR and the supporters, we are happy for this title because for most of the players and us the coaches, this is the first title, it’s something to enjoy,” Mashami said.
Mashami described the journey to the title as very long and never easy. He said it involved tough games but noted that his team maintained focus and kept on fighting up to the end.
“We are all enjoying the moment and everyone on the team has a reason to celebrate his good work,” Mashami added.
However, the former Isonga tactician was quick to warn his players against complacency and urged them to go ‘full throttle’ in their upcoming fixtures of the Peace Cup competition and ensure they don’t miss out on a double.
Skipper, Ismail Nshutiyamagara was equally excited. “I’m very happy, it is really a wonderful feeling, after a lot of hard work we have made it and it is in order to congratulate everyone. I am so proud of my teammates. They fought hard all season and now we have reaped the rewards. We set out to make history, we have done it,” said Nshutiyamagara.
Defender Emery Bayisenge was overwhelmed by the historic win as he struggled to express his feelings.
The 20-year old defender said: “I cannot explain how I feel; it is amazing, it has always been my dream to win a league title for years. Thank God I have achieved my dream, I’m so happy.”
The decision to offload foreign players and concentrate on homegrown talent started on a poor note, with the military side failing to retain the title which saw arch rivals Rayon Sports win their first league title in nine years.
They went on to miss two trophies-Primus league and Peace Cup while on the foreign scene; the military side lost the Cecafa club title to Burundi’s Vital’O and the EAC Military Games title.
Despite the poor run, the youthful side bounced back to stage a successful season. Their progress this season has been remarkable despite facing some hitches in the coaching area.
German-born Andreas Spiers who took over from Eric Nshimiyimana in early 2013 handled the youthful side until February this year when he resigned from the club after being slapped with a five-match ban over his unbecoming conduct.
Mashami who was the assistant coach took over the mantle with the same mission of ensuring that APR lifts the title.
Mashami proved he was the perfect man for the job after defeating Police FC 1-0 and thumping Gicumbi 4-1 to extend the club’s tally at the top of the national league standings with 43 points out of 18 matches that had been played at that time.
Mashami, a former Isonga and U 17 assistant coach had initially played a key role in identifying some of the youth players like Andrew Buteera, Emery Bayisenge, Farouk Ruhinda and Charles Tibingana who had been recruited by the military side.
In 26 matches played, APR lost only two matches; 2-1 against Rayon Sports in March this year under Mashami and 1-0 against AS Kigali in October last year under German Spiers.
Strict club management under Major General Jack Musemakweli which catered for players’ needs and motivation as well as the role played by senior players such as skipper Ismail Nshutiyamagara and midfielder Jean Baptista Mugiraneza were also some of the contributing factors that gave a hand to the military side to seal the historical title.
APR’s title victory earned it a place back into the continental elite football next year, besides representing Rwanda at the 2015 edition of the Cecafa Kagame club Championship.