I remember watching a game between APR and Rayon at Amahoro before this new pitch was laid. I couldn’t afford a VIP ticket, so I went in the “Gikara” section; so called because the stench of armpits is worse than tear gas.
But it was here that I got the real essence of Rwandan football; the working class man’s game, even the “Babossi” who think they own the game are mere custodians.
The “Babossi” were the object of satire; these were the men perched on the VIP section, in the shade and all wearing their obligatory sunglasses, some preening themselves like peacocks in mating season.
“Oh that Boss is funny, he has different sunglasses for different moods, when they are loosing he takes them off and puts on another pair, look at him, now he is serious.”
I realised that those were not sunglasses but rose-tinted spectacles, for the state of Rwandan football was dire.
That was 2007, Rwanda had missed out on the Cup of Nations and a “comprehensive” new programme was started, the pitch was blamed and re-laid.
The officials were lucky in the first stage of qualification, the withdrawal of Ethiopia meant it was a playoff with Mauritania for 2nd place; this masked the real crisis in Rwandan football but the final round has exposed us.
No goals in 4 games, 1 draw, 3 losses, and the team morale apparently at an all time low. We cannot let this crisis go by without exploiting it and getting some long-term structure into our game.
If the next Rwandan season starts with the same structure then we can write off Rwandan football for the next 10 years.
We need sponsorship and media coverage of our league; we need our school system to be the primary source of players and we need a national coaching program. We have played the short-term game, we have relied on old heroes to try and recapture past glories.
The likes of Karekezi, Gatete, Bokota are only living on their names and haven’t done much to justify their places.
We need to swallow the bitter medicine and adopt a long-term strategy; we cannot have mercenaries – we have Ugandans, Congolese, Senegalese, Malians and all nationals you can think of playing for our team.
I would rather watch 11 Rwandans lose 20-0 than a bunch of mediocre mercenaries.
We have to get around 120 good youngsters around 14 years old and gradually produce a team of 22 good players who have grown up together, players often fall by the wayside, a former Rwandan national team player I know is now a bus conductor with few life prospects as he was never educated.
Our game is in a dire way, the English premiership is taking over in peoples conscience, and old clubs with tradition are struggling, the big three; APR, Rayon and Atraco are the only truly professional clubs.
The demolition of hotbeds of talent such as Kiyovu ya bacyene and certain areas of Nyamirambo has meant that the conveyor belt of players has dried up, lack of open ground means players have few opportunities to play.
We need an integrated programme – Bertie Vogts was paid $130,000 by the Nigerian FA but he was responsible for overhauling the whole system, not just coming over for games.
We need a coach who is here full-time who can train the national team on all levels from under-14 to the senior team.
We need to coach our national team like a club team, what we lack in technique and experience, we can make up for in teamwork.
We have some very good players who can form the basis of a good team such as Haruna Niyonzima, Elias Ntaganda, Aloua Gaseruka and even Karekezi can be restored to his old form.
Let us be honest, and tell it like it is – we have a problem.