After U-20 enter U-17 then CAN…. sky is the limit!

I thought for a minute someone was trying to be funny about Rwanda hosting the 16th African Youth Championship when I first heard about it, and inside me I wondered “can we really handle? Until I realized it was possible and that we could actually do it but not as successfully as it turned out to be!

I thought for a minute someone was trying to be funny about Rwanda hosting the 16th African Youth Championship when I first heard about it, and inside me I wondered “can we really handle? Until I realized it was possible and that we could actually do it but not as successfully as it turned out to be!

More often than not, it’s not in good faith to blow your own trumpet, but in this case I should say that every Rwandans could toast and possibly drink to the fact that we manage to organize a very successful tournament. Some are saying it was actually the best ever!

I don’t suppose many Rwandans have taken in to what it deeply means for their country, which just over a decade ago was in near total darkness to the outside world, can be able to organize ‘the best ever’ major continental football tournament albeit at the youth level.

The word Genocide has been a constant synonym with anything Rwandan in the last 14 years, and that fact has never looked as changing before as it does after the success of the African Youth Championship.

Now people can start talking about Rwanda not as a country were the worst ever genocide in mankind took place but a country that staged the best ever U-20 AYC!

Best AYC ever

Even the Confederation of African Football (Caf) commended Rwanda for hosting a successful tournament.

Slim Aloulou, Caf’s chairman of youth competition paid tribute to Rwanda for hosting what he described as “an extraordinary African Youth Championship” which will go down in history as the “best ever”.

The Caf official said the Kigali championship will go into records as the best ever during his reign while heading the youth competitions. And that’s saying something from the horse’s own mouth.

By his own admission, which could be echoed by many more others across the continent and even in Rwanda itself, at the beginning, many people thought Rwanda would not make it but through good management by everyone connected to the event organizing committee, Rwanda emerged and surprised every body.

Mr. Slim Aloulou said, “No team complained about the services offered and our inspection continued to make their regular visits to check on all and everything has been of high standard.”

Comparing Rwanda with past hosts, the Tunisian official said that Rwanda was excellent in organizing the tournament from management, transport, accommodation, feeding, medical down to security, everything was of a high standard.

Blowing own trumpet is not right but if I blew it in this particular case, very few would blame me for it, would you? or am just being over excited?

With the Under-20 African Youth Championship Rwandans took their chance while they had it, first by putting on memorable show in terms of organization and hospitality towards the visiting delegations, and now what remains it to leave it upon the power that be to judge us for future opportunities.

The success of this championship was what we needed to put ourselves in the best possible position to organize bigger and better major events I suppose.

This was Rwanda’s chance to prove to the world that, 14 years after overcoming probably the worst Genocide ever in the history of human kind, there is more this country can contribute to making the world but most importantly Africa a better place not only through political means but the beautiful game, and indeed we did something in that respect.

After scoring so highly with the U-20, even way above our own expectations, Caf selected Rwanda to host the U-17 African Youth Championship in 2011 as rewarded for our excellent organization capabilities. This shows the trust Caf has in the people of this country.

Team nearly spoils party

Had the host nation gone just one step better, many of us wouldn’t have asked for more but it wasn’t to be as Obradovic Tomislav’s boys failed to go past the group stage.

Yet with the Rwandan team’s overall performance on its debut at the finals of the continental youth championship, one really gets spoiled with choice of whether to criticize or applaud them.

A win over Mali, draw against Cameroon and defeat at the hands of eventual championship winners Ghana, reads Rwanda’s record in the 16th Africa Youth Championship.

Depending on your expectations of the team going into the tournament, to me it’s not a bad record when you compare Rwanda and the other seven teams, all of whom have been there and done it.

But if you’re the type who had gone with wind after the win over Mali and the Cameroon draw, and dreamt big for the reminder of the tournament, then you have a reason (whether genuine or not, is another issue) to be mad with the team.

Mali in group A and Ivory Coast in group B went home without a point—Rwanda finished with four—Egypt didn’t qualify for the last four with six points! It says a lot about the competitiveness of the tournament. 

Enter Africa Nations Cup

To say we are ready to stage the senior African Cup of Nations would be kind of overambitious at this moment but I’d prefer to be overambitious than not at all because it shows we’re daring and can dream big—who said we can’t? ( I mean to dream!)

But if we could do what we’ve just done with the U-20 tournament for the U-17 event or even more, that’d mean more experience in terms of organizational skills but most importantly further trust from the powers that be (read Caf and Fifa).

Once we are done with these two youth championships, then we can start dreaming (realistically) about having the African Cup of Nations on Rwandan soil. The Sports Minister Joseph Habineza is talking of CAN 2016 or 2018 and I absolutely agree with him.

However, and I believe our good Minister and whoever else is concerned would consent with me that we can not afford to sit and wait until we’re chosen to stage the senior CAN—we must start laying the ground now, I mean immediately.