My uncle is a great patriot, he only supports APR and Rwandans; I asked him why he never followed the premiership and he was adamant. “The day they have a Rwandan player in the premiership, then I will follow it.”
My friend in UK always talked about bringing his cousin called ‘Maradona’ to play in the UK. He returned to Rwanda last year after eight years and found ‘Maradona’ was now eating too many brochettes to ever have a chance of playing in Rwanda, let alone the Premiership.
Assuming a player is good enough, there are still a number of obstacles to a Rwandan ever stepping foot at the Emirates.
The biggest problem is getting a work permit and this produces a vicious circle; to qualify one has to be from a nation ranked in the top 35 in FIFA and will have to have played 70% of the internationals in the previous two years, so in this way the top 35 stays they way it is.
Another way is if one has dual-nationality with an EU country but if a player is too good then the EU nation often has the upper hand; hence France has a team made up of all the best players from their former colonies.
There are ways around these restrictions, not all EU countries have tough restrictions, countries like Belgium, with whom we have a colonial link, have a more lax approach to foreign players.
A club like Beveren has helped the entire Ivory Coast team to integrate into European football; this has improved the ranking of Ivory Coast and therefore made it easy for other Ivory Coast players to get work permits.
Rwanda needs to develop contacts and scouting networks with feeder-clubs such as Beveren, in the hope of providing players for the future.
There is the Lome convention that technically makes it easy for African workers to work in Europe provided they have a sponsor; Spain has lifted its restrictions on African players but we need scouts to identify talent at a young age.
Michael Essien was spotted at the age of 12 by a scout on holiday, scouts often don’t come until a big player comes through; Marcel Desailly came from Ghana originally, therefore scouts were looking for another Desailly.
Patrick Vieira opened up doors for Senegalese players and soon players were scouted and sent to France and Spain.
There is a downside that is rarely talked about; thousands of young Africans are exploited by unscrupulous agents who extract money from desperate players.
When you look at the state of Rwandan football, we are nowhere close to exploiting the talents we have, too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.
Seeing as soldiers run our game then maybe Labama Bokota should take over national defence; we need a comprehensive strategy and not short-term glory-hunting.
I watched a game last year with a bunch of Congolese cooks and was stupefied; Nzogbia, Ilunga, Samba, Luyindula, Alain Goma, Makelele, Musampa, Lua Lua, Bosingwa, Nonda, Leroy Lita, and the list is endless.
The number of Congolese players in the big leagues is astounding; how can a nation with no effective government, with endemic corruption and civil war have such a high number of world class players?
They are able to integrate Diaspora players with home-grown players in a seamless manner. The clubs in our league should be obliged to have youth systems; coaching clinics should be held to produce a standardised programme for developing youth.
Schools have a big role to play; competitions between schools is the foundation on which to build a national programme, clubs should work with schools to develop their youth team and finally scouting networks and breeder clubs should be contacted to provide the wider goal of European football. Then it becomes a game of patience.