Why are Rwandans obsessed with English Football?

No one is waiting more anxiously than a Rwandan for the English Premier League to kick off. Probably even an Englishman isn’t as anxious. When the English premier  league begins, bars will once again start to make money. They will be full to the brim with fans of Manchester United, Arsenal  and Liverpool among others, screaming on top of their voices. But ask them a simple question: When does the Rwandan National Football League start? And they will express ignorance of the highest order. The sad truth is, Rwandans are not that interested in their local football. Those who try to follow find out results the following day, and usually, not by choice but because the press shoves it in their faces.
Ivan Mugisha
Ivan Mugisha

No one is waiting more anxiously than a Rwandan for the English Premier League to kick off. Probably even an Englishman isn’t as anxious.

When the English premier  league begins, bars will once again start to make money. They will be full to the brim with fans of Manchester United, Arsenal  and Liverpool among others, screaming on top of their voices.

But ask them a simple question: When does the Rwandan National Football League start? And they will express ignorance of the highest order.

The sad truth is, Rwandans are not that interested in their local football. Those who try to follow find out results the following day, and usually, not by choice but because the press shoves it in their faces.

The rest will either join the bashing bandwagon (like those who claim that Rwanda should quit football altogether), or join the after party (like those who celebrated when we qualified for the Under 17 World Cup two years ago).

Conclusively and truthfully speaking, our minds have been colonised. We can move mountains for foreign glory but we can’t invest a coin for national pride.

I know of groups of people who traveled all the way to Brazil to enjoy the World Cup, but they can never take a short cheap flight or a bus to Congo, to support Amavubi in a crucial game World Cup qualifier.

During club games, even small stadiums like Nyamirambo do not get half full. It is only when Rayon Sports is playing against APR that we get a massive crowd, but even then, many who consider themselves as “elite” will miss that game in favour of an Arsenal versus Man United clash.

Once in a while, Rwanda TV broadcasts some crucial live games in the domestic league – but interested fans must pray and hope that a particular game is not scheduled at the same time as a foreign league game.

Football lovers alike have all fallen prey to this sports colonialism – and their argument is simple: “I cannot forsake something nice to watch something stale just because of patriotism!” Peter, a good friend of mine defended himself when I asked about why he isn’t so enthusiastic about Rwandan football.

Maybe Peter has a point. Our football has to rebrand. It has to be marketed. Why are our clubs not aggressively commercial? Why are they scared to, for example, flood the market with jersey numbers of their talismanic players?

They need to test the water and see how Rwandans respond. Otherwise, football fans will have no option but to stick to European leagues since they are more enticing and market aggressively.

Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa) should come up with a strategy to promote domestic football, so that by the time the new league kicks off in September, everyone is be anxiously waiting to know what happens and the drama therein.

@Rushafrican on Twitter

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