Across Rwanda’s football fields and rugged school playgrounds is young talent. They brave the tropical heat and heavy downpour to get a kick at a football.
These Rwandans are as young as 3 years and as old as 17 years. Most of them borrow names of their model world-class footballers like Nani, Evra, Alves among others.
Innocent Kamali is one of the little strikers who meet at the Rwanda Football Federation (FERWAFA) grounds in Remera to practice soccer. He has been training there since late 2010 when his home playground of Mburabuturo- Gikondo was dug up for renovation.
At six years, Kamali has complete soccer attire, including a captain’s armband and old shin guards. He dreams of joining the football academy of local club APR FC, one of the most prominent clubs.
“I train hard every day to reach the standard of APR Academy,” says Kamali in his babyish tone. “When I grow bigger, I will score many goals for Rwanda and possibly join the European League.”
In the hot pursuit of a future career in football, these Rwandan youngsters meet several challenges as compared to those in the developed world. Most of them play barefooted in rugged shirts and hold on to the dream that they will one day become professionals.
Regis Muramira, a local sports journalist at Radio 10 says ‘lack of talent detection snoops’ and necessary funding in Rwanda are some of the reasons for the huge number of undetected young talents.
“Back in the days, we had officials who searched for promising players from their homesteads deep in the village to promote them,” Muramira said. “I don’t know why those snoops stopped because these kids need to maintain courage because opportunities come anytime.”
Jean Paul Mugaheranwa is the General Manager of ‘Vision Youth Group Academy’ which nurtures multi-talented children, including young footballers.
Mugaheranwa talks about his academy plans of starting a talent detection process to recruit new entrants.
“Hopefully many underprivileged youngsters will benefit from this program,” he says.
“We will work with some Italians and other professionals to search for underground talents who will be the next product of the academy,” he explains.
When Rwanda’s junior Amavubi team secured a place in the U-17 World Cup in Mexico, the revelation that Rwanda has an army of youth with the potential of becoming world class footballers and writing soccer history was made known.
Snoop the talent and see a new chapter in Rwanda’s football arena.