FOOTBALL is extremely the only popular sport in the country. In the past, the country suffered great political unrest caused by tribal warfare and even genocide, and sport was quite evidently affected by this situation.
After 1994, the local football body, Ferwafa re-launched competitions and entered the international fray once again.
In 1999, FIFA’s support enabled Rwanda to host the Council of East and Central African Association dubbed the Senior Challenge Cup (Cecafa), with the home team (Rwanda B) lifting the trophy.
Lifting the Challenge Cup trophy and recording her maiden appearance to feature in the 2004 nations Cup finals hosted in Tunisia remain Rwanda’s football greatest day to date.
And since 2004, the country has struggled to get back on track, to land another continental appearance.
The local federation tried but failed to reach 2006 Egypt finals, 2008 Ghana finals and the just concluded 2010 Angola Nations’ Cup finals.
The standard of football in the country is slowly declining at a high rate but responsible personalities seem not to realize this.
Different sports administrators, stakeholders and fans have all been carried away by the European football leagues.
The Europeans leagues have entrenched deep in the minds of Rwandans to the extent that local football has become irrelevant to them.
A research taken shows that local football lovers think that local soccer is boring and that is why they prefer European Soccer.
When there is premiership soccer, virtually all soccer lovers in Rwanda will abandon everything else, including watching the local league.
During weekends when the local professional league is playing, you will find the stadiums empty; everybody is watching European soccer on their television sets.
However, I do not blame Rwandan football neither do I blame the premiership because the style and standard differ. What is contained in Europe is far superior to our local leagues.
The blame should be put on local managerial/organizational skills, which are egotistic and counter productive.
As a consequence the standard of football is low, not because of lack of good materials but because players are hungry and have a myriad of personal problems. And a man that is hungry and underfed will never perform.
The poor organisation and management is factor that is leading to the steady death of our football. Football is football, irrespective of where it is played. The premiership has been around for a while, will be there even in future.
Fans are shying away from football matches not because the Premiership is on but because the standard of football declined and people lost interest.
If our football clubs have coaches who are inspirational with a professional and organised league, you will see fans returning in droves to the stadiums to watch league games.
Our clubs are financially unstable to the extent that Southern Province giant Mukura is considering withdrawing from the 2009/10 national football league.
The club which is known to be funded by Huye District failed to raise funds for transport, feeding and accommodation to enable their players feature in the local football match against Rayon Sport last month.
However, it’s not the only club likely to pull out of from this season’s league citing poor funding. Musanze, Amagaju and Marines are also set to join Mukura in the corridors of bankruptcy.
Most clubs have been relegated because of lack of local support. Some clubs are unable to purchase training kits.
This means that if a club is unable to buy kits, it will never manage to pay the players promptly to motivate them thus ending up getting poor results.
This exploit is slowly killing soccer in Rwanda, East Africa as well as other African countries. The development of Rwandan football is very slow because Rwandans themselves lack interest in supporting and promoting local clubs.
Public and Private companies who have enough funds to support such teams have shunned them because they fear to risk their money.
In such for greener pastures, talented local players have tried to leave Rwanda to play in foreign countries while others have retired early from the sport to find alternatives where they can earn a living.
This leaves us to think on who will develop the sport in the country if able players are retiring at a young age?
Nonetheless, hope shouldn’t be lost if our football is to be rescued from the graveyard. Investors like MTN, Tigo, Rwandatel, Bralirwa and many more others should come on board and be part of the sport development.
Rwanda has talented footballers but they only need support and grooming up to enable our country produce professionals.
You will never have Amavubi team composed of her really citizens qualifying at any Nations’ Cup final if our talents players are not given the care and support they deserve.
European teams are relying on African talents and they do so by paying hefty sums of money but if governments lured local talents to stay in local clubs by giving them enough money and injecting money in the league and clubs as well, this would lead to the development of football on the local scene.
Rwanda should also think waiving taxes on imported sports equipment to encourage development of sports in the country.
Lack of confidence and support in Rwandan football by Rwandans themselves is slowly killing this beautiful game.