Rayon Sports deserve a standing ovation for making Rwanda proud by becoming the first local club to reach the quarter-finals of CAF Confederations Cup.
The Blues beat Young Africans of Tanzania 1-0 on Wednesday at Kigali Stadium to reach the last eight in Africa’s second biggest club competition. They finished second in Group D, with 9 points, two behind USM Alger of Algeria and one ahead of Kenyan champions Gor Mahia.
Only USM Alger and Rayon progressed to the quarter-finals from the group. East Africa’s two leading giants; Gor Mahia, who had eight points when Rayon only had three after four games, were bundled out along with Young Africans.
Playing at this stage is in itself an achievement to be proud of. For the players, it’s time to rub shoulders with the best on the continent and a chance to be noticed.
Since the tournament’s inception in 1992 by Nigerian businessman Moshood Abiola, Rayon is the first Rwandan club to reach this stage.
For a club to be the best they have to compete with the best and the round of last eight in the CAF Confederation Cup exactly provides that platform for Rayon.
Now other local clubs ought to learn from Rayon Sports and at least aim to replicate the history, or even go beyond to reach further stages – which is also still a possibility for Rayon.
A part from the entertainment, prestige, and bragging rights by the fans, plus playing against the continental elites, the CAF tournament is a lucrative competition with significant amount of dollars that any local team would dream of laying their hands on.
Rayon will now pocket $ 350,000 – around Rwf307m. With this amount, they can sign players, pay wages, salaries and other operational costs throughout next season.
It should be noted that, the experience gained by the club in continental competitions could go a long way in strengthening Amavubi to qualify for Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Players like Abdul Rwatubyaye, Yannick Mukunzi, Thierry Manzi, Gabriel Mugabo, Eric Rutanga, Djabel Manishimwe, and Kevin Muhire as well as Meddie Kagera and Jacques Tuyisenge can now transfer that exposure and experience to the national team.
Egypt are a good example. The national team, Pharaohs, have seven AFCON titles while their top club, Al-Ahly, have won the CAF Champions League six times.
This year, they were at the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 28 years – their performance in Russia will be a discussion for another day.
For local football teams to go big, they need to look beyond Azam Rwanda Premier League and Peace Cup. You can’t win big when you think small.
By restricting their recruitment policy to only homegrown players, clubs like APR and Police deprive themselves diversity, which I strongly believe affects Amavubi in the long run. I wish I was wrong.
Very few, if any, would disagree that foreign players such as Hussein ‘Tchabalala’ Shabani, Peirrot Kwizera, and Malian forward Ismaila Diarra, has had a great impact on Rwandan players who played alongside them in Rayon Sports.
For the newly crowned Peace Cup winners Mukura VS, I hope you take note, especially since you are heading to CAF Confederation Cup next season.