Azam Premier League: Rayon Sports face Etincelles as post-Confederation Cup era begins

Rayon Sports coach Roberto Oliveira Goncalves. Sam Ngendahimana.

Coach Roberto ‘Robertonho’ Olivier and his Rayon Sports side kick off their 2018/2019 Azam Rwanda Premier League campaign against Etincelles on Saturday at Umuganda Stadium.

The game gets underway at 3:30pm.

For the first time this year, Rayon reached the quarter-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup despite heavily losing 5-1 to ruthless Enyimba of Nigeria on their way out.

For the Brazilian coach, the defeat and failure to win the tournament was depressing news as the Blues have no business at continental level this season following a disappointing campaign on domestic scene where they finished third in the league and lost to Mukura in Peace Cup final.

Winners of the two competitions automatically quality to represent the country in the following year’s Confederation of African Football (CAF) competitions.

Rayon finished third in the league, behind AS Kigali and champions APR.

As he guides Rayon Sports to his first full season since joining the club in May, Robertinho believes it is time to adjust to new priorities as he bids to inspire Rayon Sports to a ninth league title, which would see them playing the 2020 CAF Champions League.

Speaking to Saturday Sporton Thursday, Robertinho noted: “Now our focus is on the upcoming domestic league. This is our most important competition this season, we are going to give it our best throughout and approach every game with focus, determination and zeal to win,”

For all the right reasons, the league title is Robertinho’s best bet as he looks to halt APR’s dominance and renew some confidence to the club’s millions of fans.

To bolster their squad for the new season, Rayon Sports have made some new signings but so have some of their eminent players left for greener pastures abroad.

While midfielder Yannick Mukunzi is still in trials in Sweden, former skipper Pierrot Kwizera and his Burundian compatriot Shassir Nahimana play in Qatar while Rwanda international central defender Faustin Usengimana plies his trade with Kuwaiti side Khaitan Sporting Club.

Former Malian free scoring striker Ismaila Diarra has also since left for Algerian first division outfit CA Bordj Bou Arréridj on a two-year deal.

Among the new signings are; Eric ‘Radu’ Iradukunda from AS Kigali, Hussein Habimana from Police FC and former Musanze FC duo of Suleiman Mudeyi and Andre Mazimaka.

Besides the quartet, the eight-time Rwandan champions also signed two foreign players; 20-year old Ghana midfielder Prosper Donkor Kuka from Accra Young Wise FC and 19-year old Ivorian forward Gerard Stephen Kouame Brou from Togolese side Entente FC.

When APR get busy with the domestic league, the 2019 Peace Cup tournament as well as the Caf Champions League starting in February next year, it will be a good opportunity for ambitious Robertinho to leverage on the rival’s busy calendar – which is also believed to have been Rayon Sports’ biggest trouble this year.

After today’s clash against Etincelles, Robertinho’s next fixture will be against Mukura VS at Kigali Stadium on October 28.

Major tests

Hopefuls Rayon Sports will face archrivals SC Kiyovu late November on match-day 6 as their first major test before taking on resilient AS Kigali on December 9 in another awaited encounter.

The country’s biggest football game – Rayon Sports Vs APR – is set for December 12.

 

editorial@newtimes.co.rw