Rayon Sports’ best is yet to come, Roberto warns rivals

Brazilian Roberto Oliveira joined Rayon Sports in May 2018. Eric Rutanga (left in the background) is the club's new captain after the departure of Thierry Manzi. Sam Ngendahimana.

With Rayon Sports  looking to retain the league title and impressive performance in continental football, head coach Roberto Oliveira – who extended his contract this week – is optimistic that the best is yet to come for the Blues.

Since Roberto’s arrival in May 2018, Rayon have reached the quarter-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup, won the Agaciro Development Cup, the National Heroes Cup and, most recently, the league title.

After guiding the club to their ninth league title in June, Roberto went to his native country, Brazil, after failing to reach an agreement with management about extending his contract.

However, after a disappointing exit from the Cecafa Kagame Cup in the quarter-finals, the club management agreed to his demands and, days later, the 59-year old penned a new one-year deal.

“I am happy to be back in this wonderful team,” Roberto told Saturday Sport in an interview.

“There is something special about Rayon. I turned down a number of offers, in South Africa and Brazil, to stay here and I already look forward to the new season.”

He added: “Extending my contract was an easy decision to make.”

The Brazilian oversaw his training session on Friday as Rayon step up their preparations for the 2019/2020 campaign, which they will start with a double-header against Sudanese heavyweights Al Hilal Omdurman in the CAF Champions League next month.

Rayon were last Sunday drawn against Al Hilal in the first round of the continent’s premier club competition, and will be hosting the first-leg on August 9, in Kigali, before traveling to Khartoum for the decisive encounter on the weekend of August 23-25.

But, despite losing some of the pivotal players in his league title winning squad, Roberto is confident that “the gap will be well covered. Their departure will not affect results in any way.”

Since lifting the 2018-19 Azam Rwanda Premier League title on June 1, Rayon have lost some of their former kingpins such as Thierry Manzi, Ange Mutsinzi, Olivier ‘Sefu’ Niyonzima and Djabel Manishimwe who all crossed to bitter rivals APR.

However, in what looked like a dramatic squad swop, Rayon also beefed up their team with a number of former APR stars; Yves Kimenyi, Herve Rugwiro, Amram Nshimiyimana, Mirafa Nizeyimana, Maxime Sekamana and Jean Claude Iranzi.

The six were part of the sixteen players who were released by the army side late last month.

Although Roberto did not confirm or deny the development, this publication understands that Rayon are close to securing two international club friendly matches in preparation for their Al Hilal tie.

The winner, over the two legs, between Rayon and Al Hilal will either face Rahimo of Burkina Faso or Nigeria giants Enyimba in the second round.