After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the Government of national unity embarked on various sporting activities as a tool to promote peace and unity among its peoples.
Government’s support in the last 15 years culminated in Rwanda hosting one of the biggest football events on the African continent, the Africa U-20 Youth Championships, yet that seems to be just the start of better things to come in future.
Sports and football in particular has helped to unite the people of Rwanda who no longer talk about the ethnic groupings.
The country has had so many achievements in the post-genocide era, many sports associations have been formed as well as regional sports integration as a success story about Rwanda’s sports achievements.
Though the country lost many sportsmen and women during the genocide that claimed over a million lives, the government through various channels has played pivotal role in supporting the grooming of youngsters who represents the nation in various national and international competitions.
The recognition of Rwanda at the continental level has been a tremendous achievement to mention here. The country has been entrusted by the football and basketball African confederation authorities to host events during recent times.
Both CAF (Confederation of African Football) and FIBA-Africa have endorsed Rwanda amongst potential countries in Africa to host events at continental level.
Rwanda’s peace and stability has inspired many foreign countries to visit the nation for sporting purposes as well as bilateral co-operation.
Rwanda has participated in many international competitions like tennis, volleyball, basketball, Rugby and football. The respective national teams have fetched good results from their international sports events as compared to old days.
Many international bodies have been excited by the Rwanda’s urge to promote sports and particularly football not only in the country, but also at the regional level.
However proper development of Rwanda’s image especially on the international scene could not be effected properly until 1997 when the country was admitted to the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA).
The following year the country was for the first time represented at the CECAFA Club championship in Zanzibar by Rayon Sport. Despite being newcomers the club defied all odds to emerge the first Rwandan club to clinch the regional clubs title. Since then the country has been represented every year at both the club and national team level.
But Rwanda’s great moment to improve on her past tainted image came in 1999 when they hosted their first Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Kigali. In bid to organise a successful event the government invested in the tournament and ensured the event was telecast to the countries in the region.
Rwanda’s efforts paid off when they emerged victorious after Rwanda B defeated Kenya’s Harambee Stars in the final.
Teams like APR and ATRACO among many others formed after genocide have made an impact not only in CECAFA but also at continental level. ATRACO won last year’s CECAFA club championship in Khartoum defeating the hosts El-Merreikh.
APR football club has challenged many African giant clubs in the CAF Champion’s League and this shows the stride and pride towards promotion of Rwandan football.
Yet there are many countries struggling to reach the nations finals every year, yet the post-genocide Rwanda has already achieved this.
The construction of artificial turfs and initiation of soccer development academies is a key indicator for Rwanda’s urge and willingness to develop sports at higher level.