Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal and Botswana are all top contenders that Rwanda will need to be wary of at the upcoming continental championships in Kigali.
But for Egyptian tactician Hashim Mahmoud Mohamed Hashim, who is currently in charge of the Rwandan team, his side is not afraid of these opponents although he acknowledged their strength.
Rwanda this week hosts the 17th African Seniors Karate Championships and the 9th African Juniors Karate Championships, billed as the biggest and most glamorous karate event on the continent thus far.
Speaking during an exclusive with The Times Sport on Monday, Hashim admitted that his native Egypt is a top contender because of its individual and collective quality as well as its vast experience on the world stage.
Up to 23 countries are expected to participate in the continental championships.
“The first country of course is Egypt because they came with competitors in all the categories, juniors and seniors, and boast good players and vast experience. Their players participate in many world championships and have been to world-class competitions,” Hashim said.
He added: “The second I think is Morocco but they didn’t bring players for all the categories. And I think Tunisia is good too, along with Senegal and Botswana. But I hope our team will win more medals for Rwanda.”
He insisted that he is “not worried at all” about the continent’s Karate heavy weights. Hashim’s message to his squad of 30 is, “we must play without fear of anyone.”
“They are human just like our players; they have two hands and legs just like each of our players. A match takes three minutes. If I have a good spirit why can’t I beat anyone? I know it will be very difficult in some categories but I know that competitive sport is like the sea.”
“Back home in Egypt there is a saying that no one is too big for the sea; anyone can die on the sea. Equally, no one is too big in sports too.”
Hashim has told his players not to mind about their opponents’ fame and name but rather focus only on having good matches.
Other potential tough competitors such as South Africa, Algeria, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon have also registered for the tournament.
Meanwhile, the continental Karate federation will today, Tuesday, hold a referee commissioning meeting in Kigali, one of a series of preparatory events lined up ahead of the opening matches on Friday.
There is optimism in the Rwandan camp since last month when the country sent three teenagers to the 3rd African Youth Games in Algeria. Two of the youngsters who were fighting (kumité) competitors defied the odds to win medals, including Rwanda’s first ever silver in an international event.
It was Rwanda’s second appearance in the tournament, which takes place once every four years – following their subdued debut in 2014.
Theogene Uwayo, Rwanda Karate Federation president, commended the trio for a “job well done” and tipped them for greatness.
“I am very proud of the trio we sent to Algiers. They beat our expectations,” Uwayo said.