There is such a thing as a shared national moment, when a nation is united in hope and praying for the same dream. Anyone who doubts the ability that sport has to effect social change should see our young Amavubi and their rise in global football.
I ducked the afternoon work session to catch a moment of history, the stadium was too full to have anymore, security was tight for the semi-final so I ran to the nearest screen. The greatest attribute of youth is often its greatest weakness; being fearless.
However, if the person is equipped with skill and tactical maturity then that fearlessness becomes deadly. Watching the young wasps is like watching Arsenal reserves or Brazil, they pass the ball and move around so well.
The names are now household names, Usengimana, Tibigana, Bayisenga, Buteera, Mico and so on. I honestly think that they are more skillful than their senior counterparts but they are not yet physically and tactically mature yet.
This is the antidote to the recent mediocre Congolese and Ugandan players who would half-heartedly represent us. Now Rwanda is on the path to world glory because good junior teams make future world-class teams.
We all act as if this happened overnight but it did not, it was a national academy programme from scratch, with nutrition, tactical training, body-conditioning, skills training, and in-game training.
It has taken more than two years to have this overnight success. When we look at the best African teams then they often start well at youth level.
Rwanda’s opponents Ivory Coast are a perfect example, the junior elephants can look up to Drogba, the Toure’s, Gervinho, Kalou and know their future is bright, they are linked to big European clubs and money is pumped back into the game.
Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Cameroon and every good African team has built on a good youth team.
Tunisia has the same population and Rwanda and yet they expect to qualify for every major tournament, so we have a big enough talent pool. We just need to nurture this crop of talent, and work on the next group and in 3 years you could have a regional power-house.
Then the question is getting them signed by European clubs so they don’t stagnate, we often see good Rwandese talent developing in isolation and then withering away.
So on Saturday our nation will stop and nothing else will be important, it has deep implications for us as a nation. These under-17’s were born around 16 years ago, they were born roughly during or after the genocide.
For that reason they represent hope, the future and a Rwanda without divisions – a united Rwanda. I have not heard anyone ask of the ethnic composition of the team, they are just Rwandans, or “abana bomu’Kartiye” boys from the neighbourhood round a corner near you.
It will teach parents that sports can be a great teaching tool even if your child never plays professionally. I feel we can win this thing, I really do. Even if we don’t, we as a nation are united and proud.