Rwandan football has experienced many drastic strides in the last twelve years be on local, regional and international scene.
A crisis is now looming at the local football body, Ferwafa following the recent resignations of its top administrator, Brig. Gen. Jean Bosco Kazura and the Chief Executive Officer Jules Kalisa.
This came barely two weeks after the national team coach Sellas Tetteh threw in the towel.
Kazura resigned this week with a year and a half left on his second-term as the president of local football governing body, while Kalisa quit due to what he described as “bad working atmosphere” that has hit the football fraternity following mixed results from the national teams.
Kalisa being the long serving administrator in the local football federation helped the country reach different successes but his tenure also met with different challenges that caused many failures. Nevertheless, success gained outweighs failures for the last 12 years.
After the 1994 Tutsi Genocide which claimed over a million innocent Rwandan lives, Rwanda started to write its name on the African football fraternity in 1999 when they hosted the Cecafa Challenge Cup in Kigali.
Under Kalisa, who was hired by former Ferwafa President Lt. Gen Caesar Kayizari to manage the organisation of the event, he tirelessly ensured that 1999 Cecafa edition be the most successful edition of the Cecafa Challenge Cup tournaments to be ever, a feat which even Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye affirms.
Rwanda which had fielded two teams; Rwanda A and B emerged winners with Rwanda B winning the tournament after trouncing Kenya 3-1 in the final.
Rwanda then went on to finish runners-up in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 and managed to finish third in 2001, 2002 and 2006 respectively. The Cecafa Challenge Cup tournament played a big role in the rebirth of Rwandan football.
APR Fc dominance
The country’s football started to rise on a slow pace but APR which was the major source of players to the national senior team continued to be a major force to reckon by building a strong team which later terrorized African teams in late 2003, early 2004.
In late 2003, the Amavubi team proved a mark when Rwanda qualified for the 2004 Tunisia Africa Cup of Nations after edging out Uganda and Ghana in the qualifying round.
In Tunisia, Rwanda upset the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 for their first and only African Nations Cup finals victory to date; only to have a place in the last eight snatched from them when a late Titi Camara goal gave Guinea a 1-1 draw with Tunisia.
Still in 2004, APR started to make a mark rising to be the team of the moment in the region. They scored 20 goals, came out unbeaten and showed high standards to win the 2004 Cecafa Club Championships played in Kigali. They have since won the 2007, 2011 title respectively.
The event has been sponsored by the Rwanda President Paul Kagame since 2001 with prize money worth $60,000.
In the Africa champions’ league, they were the only team still holding the regional Cecafa flag high in the Africa Champions League until 2008 when their performance started to deteriorate, failing to proceed past the first round stage.
In 2004, they demolished African champions Zamalek of Egypt 4-1 but could not reach the money-spinning group stage round after falling to Africa Sports of Ivory Coast.
In the same year, Fifa picked Rwanda for the pilot project for the construction of the Amavubi academy of excellence and complex headquarter for the football federation.
The country was picked because of its eagerness and efforts in promoting football as well as the good relations that had emerge between Ferwafa and Fifa. The Amavubi ‘academy of excellence’ was the first of its kind in Africa and has equipped younger players with theoretical and physical techniques.
The $700,000 football complex was partly constructed at the funding of Fifa, who contributed $450.000 and Ferwafa ($250.000), while the government provided the plot. Over the years, Ferwafa has risen to be among the best football associations on the continent.
The relationship that exists between Ferwafa and its members association is excellent compared to other African football associations were infighting and wrangles is the order of the day.
This has helped the football body to even progress in having coordinated annual general meetings with computerized minutes of each meeting well kept unlike in the past when there no records kept for reference.
Before 1999, Ferwafa had no legal statute to govern the federation and the smooth running of its daily operations, unlike today when the statue guides the federation on it activities and has also helped to build good relations between Ferwafa, Caf and Fifa.
The country’s ability to own over five stadiums was an idea of the outgoing current regime. In the past, there were no modern stadiums that could accommodate international apart from Amahoro stadium.
With Fifa’s and government’s support, Ferwafa has courted for Mumena, Ferwafa, Nyamirambo, Rubavu and Muhanga as well as Huye stadia which are under construction now.
This has seen Rwanda lead across the region as the best football federation with infrastructures to enable the development of the game.
Event management has been a successful feat to smile upon. The federation gunned for hosting rights of the 2009 U-20, 2011 U-17 and 2016 CHAN tournaments.
The organisation of the U-20 Africa youth championship impressed CAF to award them rights of hosting the both U-20 and CHAN tournament.
The ideas which were ignited by Ferwafa had a target of hosting the Africa Cup of Nations’ tournament in future.
Apart from being well connected to the world, Ferwafa has a regular and financed national football league, second division league and the women league.
U17 team in World Cup
Despite being ranked 135th on the latest Fifa rankings, Rwanda improved on its rankings from 178th position in July 1999 to 78th position in December 2008.
The backdrop has been attributed to a various reasons like the poor performances in continental qualifiers and inability to play international friendly matches.
Other remarkable achievements include; the junior wasps competing for the first time in the Africa U-20 Youth Championship in 2009 as hosts though the country never progressed past the group stage.
Two years later, the U-17 team competed for the first time in the Africa U-17 Youth Championship finishing runner-up to Burkina Faso in January this year, hence qualifying for the Fifa World Cup in Mexico. Other African representatives included Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Congo Brazzaville.
In Mexico, the junior wasps lost twice against England and Uruguay before managing a draw against Canada in the group stage.
Ferwafa has been able to train its coaches from the negotiated football development cooperation partnerships with the English FA and Germany football body; DFB.
Apart from the coaching course, DFB has been able to provide training camps for our national teams ahead of their participation in continental and worldwide competitions.
Despite the highs, the lows include failure to qualify for four Nations Cup finals in 2006 (Egypt), 2008 (Ghana), 2010 (Angola) and 2012 (Equatorial Guinea/Gabon).
Kalisa has been the face of Rwandan football and he has seen the country’s football rise from scratches to bar of success which every Rwandan was craving for in past years.
But with the bar of expectations raised, many sports fanatics have blamed the football federation for not being able to find a sustainable solution that would send Rwanda back to a continental final despite the Amavubi team having gone through five coaches since Tunis 2004 success under Ratomir Dujkovic.
Other foreign coaches that have managed the amavubi team include Roger Palmgren (2004-05), Michael Nees (2006-07), Josip Kuze (2007-08) and Sellas Tetteh (2010-2011).
Despite the bar of expectation being raised, Rwandans have forgotten that for the country to be able to achieve the previous success, several factors need to be addressed namely;
Provincial leagues have to be created across the country to run competitively in hand with the current first and second division leagues. This will help football to be extended deep to the grassroots and foster the better development of skilled talents.
Ferwafa should not manage the national football league. Ferwafa should only be in charge of the national teams and focus on the grassroots level, leaving room for another organ to manage the national football league.
The government should finance all first division clubs and order them to have an under-17 and under-20 teams in their structures and whichever clubs fails to do so, should exit the national league.
This will help the continuous development of football and national team head coaches to have wider selection area of players who will help in forging a formidable and solid national team that can challenge Africa’s best teams.
The media should be offered refresher courses and equipped with modern football ethics. It has been confirmed that the majority of Rwandan sports journalists manipulate information to the general public without concrete information but have filled the minds of Rwandans with speculations, a feat which has stopped fans from coming to stadiums for local or international matches.
Despite all the successes and failures, this is the time for the renaissance of the country’s football.
This will not only be accomplished by the new president or the CEO, who will be elected to replace the departed duo, but by every Rwandan.