Year in Review: Eight stories that shaped local football in 2018

Rayon Sports players celebrate the crucial 1-0 victory over Tanzania’s Young Africans, at Kigali Stadium, as they reached the last eight in CAF Confederation Cup, in April 2018 . Sam Ngendahimana.

Sport has a unique way of making an impression on people, leaving lasting – good and bad – memories. And, no discipline does it better than football – the world’s most popular sport.

Despite taking a lion’s share in the annual sports budget, football remains one of the most underperforming sports in Rwanda. But still, it also remains the most popular despite the remarkable rise of cycling over the last five or so years.

As we look back at the year 2018 that was, Times Sport came up with a list of eight most memorable football moments that shaped the year, from Amavubi’s poor showing in CHAN finals tournament to Mukura’s impressive return to continental football.

January 23: Amavubi suffer early exit in CHAN

Rwanda needed just a draw in their final Group C match – against Libya – to progress to the quarter-finals of the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) finals tournament in Morocco, but that chance was snatched from their hands in what is arguably the saddest moment in domestic football last year.

Prior to that clash against the Mediterranean Knights, Amavubi had four points after having held Nigeria to a goalless draw and beating Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in the first two games.

Rwanda dominated possession in the early stages of the game, but they could not create clear-cut chances. As the game progressed, Libya took control of the game, but they also failed to convert their chances. The two sides were locked at 0-0 during the half-time break.

The second-half was dominated by Libya and Rwanda did most of the defending as Antoine Hey’s men looked for a draw until Elmutasem Abushnaf scored a late winning goal in stoppage time to deny Amavubi a slot to the last eight of Africa’s second biggest football tournament.

March 17 – Dec 4: APR continue to flop on continental scene

Despite dominating the local scene for the last 24 years, APR FC continued to struggle on continental stage as they bowed out of the 2017/2018 CAF Confederation Cup from the second round on March 17 despite their 2-1 win over Djoliba AC de Bamako of Mali in the return-leg in Kigali.

Djoliba AC reached the play-offs round on 2-2 goal aggregate thanks to their away goal advantage, having won the first-leg 1-0 a week earlier in Bamako.

Last month, the military side were hammered 3-1 by Tunisia’s Club Africain in Tunisia to suffer another early – preliminary round – exit, this time in the 2018/2019 CAF Champions League.

The two sides had played out a goalless draw in the first-leg encounter in Kigali.

March 31: Sekamana elected new Ferwafa president

Jean-Damascène Sekamana was elected as Rwanda Football Association (Ferwafa) president – for a four-year term, only renewable once – after garnering 45 votes out of the 53 casted, defeating Louis Rurangirwa who only managed 7 votes.

One invalid vote was registered.

The retired army General replaced Vincent ‘De Gaulle’ Nzamwita who did not run for a second term.

The former SC Kiyovu president promised to work on bringing back a good relationship with stakeholders, and to develop the sport starting from the grassroots level.

April 18: Rayon make history

Rayon Sports became the first Rwandan club to reach the group stage in any CAF club competition after edging out Mozambican side Clube de Desportos da Costa do Sol in a double-legged tie in the playoffs round of the CAF Confederation Cup playoffs.

Despite losing the return leg 2-0 in Maputo, the eight-time Rwandan champions progressed 3-2 on aggregate score, thanks to their comfortable 3-0 win in the first leg in Kigali.

But, the memorable 2018 season was not over yet for the Blues.

After recording a shaky start in Group D – which also included Young Africans of Tanzania, Gor Mahia of Kenya and Algeria’s USM Alger – where they only managed three points from their first four games, Rayon recovered to beat Gor in Nairobi and Young Africans in Kigali as they stormed into the quarter-finals of the continental competition.

However, Roberto Oliveira’s side unceremoniously exited the tournament at the hands of Nigerian powerhouse Enyimba. Rayon held the two-time African champions to a 0-0 draw in the first-leg in Kigali before enduring a 5-1 defeat in the decisive leg in Nigeria.

June 27: APR clinch record-extending 17th league title

A 2-0 win over Espoir FC on the final day of the season cemented a record-extending 17th league title – in just 23 years – for the military side, since their maiden title in 1995.

APR went into the final match of the season battling for the Azam Rwanda Premier League title with AS Kigali, with both sides separated by three points.

Goals from defender Aimable Nsabimana and forward Muhadjiri Hakizimana were enough to hand the black-and-white outfit a much-needed victory as AS Kigali were held by Musanze to a 1-all draw.

August 12: Mukura win Peace Cup

Goalkeeper Regis Aime Ingabire was the man of the moment as Mukura Victory Sports finally ended their 28-year trophy drought to lift the Peace Cup.

Ingabire saved two penalties as his side beat Rayon Sports 3-1 in shootouts after the teams played out a goalless draw at Kigali Stadium in a nail-biting and dramatic final on August 12.

Francis Haringingo’s side had beaten AS Kigali in the last 16 and APR in quarter-finals en route to the final. They saw off Amagaju in last four.

By winning the Peace Cup title, Mukura qualified to represent the country in the 2018-19 Total CAF Confederation Cup.

October 18: Hakizimana named Player of the

Amavubi and APR forward Muhadjiri Hakizimana was voted as the 2017/2018 Azam Rwanda Premier League Player of the Year, ending the two-year reign of former Rayon Sports midfielder Pierrot Kwizera who had won the coveted award in 2016 and 2017.

Hakizimana, 24, beat former APR teammate Djihad Bizimana and AS Kigali striker Jean Claude Ndarusanze in the vote by topflight league coaches, captains and a select 16 journalists.

Musanze FC tactician Emmanuel Ruremesha scooped the Coach of the Year award while Rayon Sports midfielder Kevin Muhire was named Young Player of the Year.

December 22: Mukura reach Conf Cup playoffs

Following a 5-4 penalty shootouts win over Sudan’s Hilal Obayed, Mukura Victory Sports reached the play-off round of the Caf Confederation Cup for a historic first time.

The two sides played out goalless draws – in regular time – both in the first-leg in Sudan and the decisive leg at Huye Stadium.

Christophe Ndayishimiye, Onesme Twizerimana, Innocent Ndizeye, Iddy Saidi Djuma and Gael Duhayindavyi converted their penalties to send the Huye-based side to the play-off round on their first appearance in the competition since 2000.

In the upcoming play-off round, the black-and-yellow outfit have been drawn against another Sudanese side, Al Hilal, where the winner of the two-legged tie will automatically reach the group stage.

Mukura will play the first-leg away to Al Hilal – Sudan’s most successful club – at Al-Hilal Stadium in Khartoum on January 11 before hosting the return-leg at Huye Stadium a week later.