“When you see a pregnant goat in the market, there’s a pregnant problem back home.” – Chinua Achebe
It is no news that Amavubi are the country’s most underperforming yet the most expensive national team. For every one step made forward, four are made backward.
The continued disappointing results in international competitions leave, and always have, many questions unanswered: Who is to blame? Is it players, coaches, lack of talent, inadequate preparations or simply lack of discipline, commitment and consistency from various ends?
How does one explain how Amavubi are ranked 138th in FIFA monthly rankings at the moment, down from their historic best 64th position in March 2015.
Lack of identify and football philosophy
Since 1972, changing coaches almost every year has been the culture, apart from 1972-76 under Otto (4), 2001-2004 under Ratomir (3) and 2011-13 under Milutin (2), this hypothetically proves inconsistencies in terms of overseeing the set goals to be achieved.
This change of coaches has done, and still does, more harm than the intended good to the national team. No one gains when a newly appointed coach disrupts the structure of his predecessor, well knowing he will also be fired in less than a year.
With the high turnover in the coaches, this leaves the whole structure without a specific identity. The local football governing body, with the help of experts and former footballers, should lead the process to set up a blueprint that should be followed irrespective of the incumbent.
There is one thing or two we can learn from Belgium. After getting knocked out from group stages of the 2000 Euro finals tournament that he had co-hosted and a stream of poor results in other international competitions, the country rolled out a nationwide project to overhaul their old system and establish a new blueprint, which is why the Belgian Red Devils are shining today.
The third place finish at this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia and top position in FIFA rankings for the past two months are results of that project.
Therefore, if the Rwanda FA wants Amavubi to achieve any success on international scene, they must start by establishing clear structures from the grassroots level to nurture and sustain football talents at the highest level, and identify the style of football that best suits our players.
It will always be hard for any coach to get the most out of Amavubi until they identify strengths of the players and the football style they can excel at.
Taking example from the 1-all draw against Guinea at Kigali Stadium last month, it was clear that every time Amavubi players looked a menace to Syli Nationale when they tried to play a 1-2-jigsaw as opposed to when they tried aerial balls.
If long balls don’t work, then why not trying something different, stick to it and perfect it.
The euphoria among fans has drastically fallen since Amavubi are not giving enough to impress the millions of Rwandans who used to rally behind the team every time they played.
The ambience at stadiums has notably diminished and it has become very easy for anyone, even a non-football person, to predict that “the best Amavubi can do is a draw” since they have lost confidence in the team.
If availed with resources and the right procedures are followed, and institutions in charge look for long-term solutions rather than a quick fix, there will be no limit to possibilities.
To prove the benefits of the doubts: As a result of the 2008 Ferwafa Academy, which was followed by APR and SEC football academies, Rwanda managed to finish second at the 2011 Africa U17 Cup of Nations, and featured at the World Cup the same year.
It is not too late, but, it won’t come easy either.
Amavubi coaches and duration in charge since 1972
Otto Pfister (1972-76), Metin Turel (1991), Longin Rudasingwa (1998-1999), Rudi Gutendorf (1999-00), Longin Rudasingwa (Interim), Ratomir Dujkovic (2001-04), Roger Palmgren (2004-5), Michael Nees (2006-7), Josip Kuze (2007-8), Raoul Shungu (2008, interim), Branko Tucak (2008-9), Eric Nshimiyimana (2009-10, 2013-14) and Sellas Tete (2010-11).
Others include; Milutin Sredojevic (2011-13), Stephen Costantine (2014-15), Lee Johnson (2015, interim), Johnny McKinstry (2015-16), Gilbert Kanyankore (2016, interim), Jimmy Mulisa (2016, interim), Antoine Hey (2017-18) and Vincent Mashami (2018-present).