In football, it takes the genius to predict destiny and I’m no one…..but as far as this year’s league title is concerned, surely Atraco Fc have it in their own hands.
Only in its third year in the topflight division and Atraco look as though they are about to change the tradition and become only the third team to win the league since it’s formation 14 years ago.
In the past 13 seasons, the league has been shared between two teams, APR and Rayon Sports with the former having the won a record nine titles….and that is total contrast with four for the latter.
Tough fixtures ahead
But with five rounds of matches remaining, Jean-Marie Ntagwabira’s side lead the way with 44 points, two ahead of their closest rivals and defending champions APR Fc.
And looking at the fixtures both teams are remaining with, APR seem to have the toughest route with Kiyovu (today), AS Kigali (June 25), Rayon Sports (July 8), Mukura (July 11) and Police (dates yet to be confirmed) still to come.
Whereas Atraco still has to play AS Kigali (today), Electrogaz (June 25), Military (July 8), Kiyovu (July 11) and Rayon (dates not fixed yet).
But while APR hopes to overcome Kiyovu, AS Kigali and Rayon in their next matches, Atraco should be too much for AS Kigali, Electrogaz and Military, at least on the face of it, unfortunately football can be such a cruel sport some times.
Ntagwabira and his team believe they are more than capable of collecting nine points out of the nine available in their next three fixtures but as for APR, they’d have to be at the best to get maximum points from Kiyovu and Rayon, a situation that plays very much in Atraco’s favour.
Unless Rene Fuller’s side win their next three games, anything less than that will mean falling behind Atraco by a couple more points. Not a good scenario for a team not used to being second.
By the time the taxi-men side meets Kiyovu and Rayon in their last two games, the military side will be left with Mukura and Police and probably a couple of points off the pace, which would certainly make the league finale more interesting than ever before.
The last two seasons have been the closely contested in recent years and this season promises to be the same—all that courtesy of Atraco Fc.
Gone are the days when APR, because their unrivalled riches comfortably won the title without having to dig deepest.
Atraco not only have the money to rival APR but they also have the players, the coaching staff but most importantly the administration to manage the club in a relatively more satisfying manner than their rivals.
And also, self-belief and the desire to break APR’s monopoly seem to be driving Atraco to great things as rivals contemplate for the next move.
Atraco must take full advantage of the current situation in their rivals’ camps and win the title or keep hoping because any slip up could open up the room for APR to claim a tenth title in 14 seasons.
Remember no team in this country knows how best to win trophies than the military side and as things stand at the moment, you can’t afford to rule them out just yet.
In the last two seasons, the league title has been won on the very last day and on both occasions APR have been the winner for their eighth and ninth title.
Too close to call
In the 2005/6 season under Sam Ssimbwa, Atraco were pipped to the title by a single point and second place wasn’t enough for the charismatic Ugandan coach to avoid being sacked—in one year, he had become Rwanda’s version of Mourinho.
His successor, Ntagwabira knows a thing or two about winning trophies dating to his days at APR both as a player and coach but his debut season with Atraco was a failure by his standards as he lost the Amahoro Cup and the league to the same team.
But it could be a different story at the end of July and how he’d love it if his current team beats his old team to the league title.
Having got his revenge on APR the other week, the former Rwandan international midfielder believes his team can beat anyone and not only that but he also wants to prove to his critics that he’s the best local coach around.
Having won four league titles, the Cecafa/Kagame Cup and a couple of Amahoro cups with the military side, Ntagwabira is still angry with APR leaders for the manner they treated him during his different spells there as coach.
And him, more than anyone else would love it the most if Atraco beats APR to the league title and the phrase ‘loving it if Atraco beats APR” reminds me of the famous quote that Kevin Keagan made in 1996 as the battle for the league title race hit up.
Referring to Newcastle United’s game against Manchester United, his team’s closest challenger for the Premier League title, the outspoken Keagan said, “I’d love it if we beat them! Love it!”
Indeed, Newcastle beat Manchester United 5-0 at St. James Park but unfortunately they lost the title to Sir Alex Ferguson (he was just Alex Ferguson then) after throwing away a 12-point lead at one stage.
Amavubi Stars shame
Not only does Ntagwabira want to settle a thing or two with APR, he’d also wish to prove to Ferwafa that it were actually a mistake to sack him from the national team set up.
From his days as Djuckovic Ratomir’s right-hand man, the 36-year-old has gone on to become the best local coach as his achievements speak loads for him. Talk of the combination of Blanko Tucak and Raoul Shungu leading Amavubi to great things; forget about it.
To me, not only Shungu but Tucak isn’t good enough for the task as the result and performance against Sudan in Khartoum showed—the negative tactics in that game didn’t do the pair any justice either.
It was a shame to see Gaseruka (Aloua) at left fullback, Ntaganda (Elias) in midfield, Elias Uzamukunda at right wing and Haruna Niyonzima as a centre-forward!
What the hell did Tucak and Shungu thought they were doing? Defend, defend and defend for 90 minutes or they simply don’t have a clue tactically? Hmmm, I’m just asking.
If they go into the return leg with same hopeless tactics as they did in the first leg, then I fear we should brace ourselves for another defeat this time in our own backyard. I’m waiting to be proved wrong on Tucak and Shungu working and succeeding together.