Just a couple of years back, APR Football Club had only a handful of fans following them wherever they played and after gaining much success domestically, they now pull the second biggest crowd only behind Rayon Sport.
Back then, these two giants dominated Rwandan football every other year but as time went on, Rayon dropped off the race as their rivals were just too rich to be competed against—this gave the military side, APR, the momentum to assert total authority on local football and to some extent extended it in the region.
For a club that was only formed around 1993 in the bush by RPA/F soldiers who were fighting to overthrow a genocidal government, and it made its league debut in 1995, to find that it has won 10 league titles, seven Peace Cups, two Cecafa titles is a phenomenal record, which every APR fan must be quite proud of.
This is a record that APR fans brag about nonstop, they will always tell you how good their team is or has been over the years. But one thing they tend to forget is that this relative success has not come cheaply, it has come with a price, which am quite sure does not give a good reading in business terms.
Over the years, APR has recruited all sorts of players, from all corners of the continent bar the north, all in a bid to become more successful at home, in the region and beyond.
Yet, despite all the millions of Rwandan francs spent on bringing these players to Kigali, the club has not made a breakthrough on the continent where it matters most if any club is ever going to be taken seriously.
In the region, APR doesn’t enjoy the illustrious history neither as the likes of Uganda’s SC Villa and KCC, Tanzania’s Yanga and Simba nor Kenya’s Gor Mahia but the Rwandan club has proved in the last 14 years that it has the potential to upstage its older regional rivals, especially given that they have the financial muscle to buy players, who can deliver.
But that said, it’s also very unfortunate that, the military side or whoever is in charge of their recruitment just doesn’t have a clue on how to get value for money.
Especially in the last seven years or so, the Black and White have spent enormous sums of cash on poor or at best, very average players, especially foreigners and they don’t seem like they ever learn from past mistakes in their recruitment department.
Without mentioning names, you will possibly agree with me that in recent years, we have seen some rubbish mercenaries masquerading as footballers in the famous Black and White jersey.
If only the person(s) in charge of the club’s recruitment has some knowledge of scouting on every possible target before wasting money on them, then this club would be in a better position to compete with TP Mazembe in next weekend’s Champions League second round clash.
The Rwandan champions have never gone beyond the preliminary phase of the continent’s biggest club football competition, the furthest they reached was the third round (preliminary stage) in 2005 before being eliminated by Ivory Coast’s Africa Sport.
I hate to say this but it appears as though the wait for APR to reach the money spinning group stage will continue for yet another year as I don’t see them getting past the competition’s reigning champions, who have assembled quite a formidable squad in a bid to retain their crown.
Because of a consistent poor transfer policy year in year out, APR may count themselves among clubs with a relatively sound spending power in Africa, but they surely can’t count themselves among the most competitive when it comes to the biggest stage.
This season, only Bokota is in the double figures (goals) among their strikers with 10, his partner Abbas Rassou, who returned to the club in a big money move last July, has only managed a paltry 4.
Kabange Twite, who showed so much potential in his first season but hasn’t done much after that, has just 2. New signing Victor Nyirenda, a Malawian international has scored one!
Whether it was luck, fate or whatever else you may think of, APR must be wondering how they beat Angola’s Recreativo de Libolo away when everyone thought they were out after drawing the first leg at home.
But, the true test of their character will come against TP Mazembe, who come to Kigali for the first leg next weekend. Ideally, if APR can eliminate Mazembe in the second round, then you would bet on them to go further than the next round, but it’s a big IF.
However, realistically, I don’t see our champions doing much against an ambitious team like Mazembe but I am going for a narrow home win and big away defeat as the quality of the DR Congo outfit led by Trassor Mputu will be just too much for Erik Paske’s average team.