Rwanda football on the spot again after early Cecafa Kagame Cup exits on home soil

Rayon Sports goalkeeper Yves Kimenyi looks dejected after conceding a goal against KCCA on Wednesday. The latter beat the Rwandan champions 2-1 to progress to semi-finals where they face Green Eagles, of Zambia, on Friday. / Courtesy

Semi-finals

Friday

KCCA     Vs    Green Eagles     3p.m
Azam     Vs    AS Maniema     6p.m

Rwanda football is back into the limelight for all the wrong reasons.

Local clubs’ early exit from the ongoing Cecafa Kagame Cup 2019 in Rwanda has seen fans take to social media to express their disappointment at the fact that none of the three clubs that represented the country has reached the semi-final stage – on home soil!

Mukura were the first to bow out in group stages, before Rayon Sports and APR were eliminated in the quarter-finals on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

But what particularly stirred angry reactions was the fact that APR were seen off by a team – AS Maniema of DR Congo – that were only admitted into the tournament two days before kick-off.

Olivier Nduhungirehe, an avid football fan, tweeted Wednesday evening, “This is the sad confirmation that football in #Rwanda is in freefall! #Cecafa must be the weakest region of football in #Africa. Yet, none of our top 3 in @AzamLeague made it to the semi-finals! We should get serious and do something about it or drop football for good!”

Nduhungirehe, who is the State Minister for EAST African Community affairs, is a renowned fan of Mukura Victory Sports.

AS Maniema’s request to take part in the regional competition was granted at the last minute after Kenya’s Bandari FC pulled out.

And, while APR matched into the last eight as Group C leaders with a perfect nine points, and without conceding a goal, AS Maniema advanced as Group D first runners-up.

Another football enthusiast, Richard Kwizera, said: “Pain for APR players, joy for AS Maniema! None of the three teams which represented Rwanda reached the semifinals of CECAFA Kagame Cup 2019!

“The mediocrity of our National League and football in general has been exposed again.”

While APR have won the Azam Rwanda Premier League a record 17 times, AS Maniema’s most memorable performance to date is winning the 2006 Maniema Provincial League title. They finished fourth in the DR Congo topflight league last season.

CECAFA debutants AS Maniema progressed to the semi-finals 4-3 on penalties after the normal time ended in a goalless stalemate.

Some have however pointed to the fact that the Rwandan clubs went into the tournament with largely newly constituted squads, having recently lost/released  or signed many first-team players.

Action resumes Friday afternoon for the semi-final ties with Uganda’s KCCA, who dumped Rayon Sports out of the regional tournament, facing Green Eagles of Zambia, with AS Maniema taking on holders Azam FC of Tanzania.

Notably, several major clubs from traditional participating countries did not take part in the tournament which coincided with the 2019 African Nations Cup (Afcon) finals.

Cecafa members Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda participated in this year’s Afcon, a tournament Rwanda last participated in 15 years ago.

In recent past, there have been mixed fortunes for sports fans in Rwanda.

While sports like cycling, basketball and cricket have been on the rise, football has taken a nosedive both at the national and club level much to the chagrin of football fans.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

 

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