Hand of Fate? Rwanda’s National Football team ‘Amavubi’ Attending African Cup of Nations Again!
It has been 16 years since the last time Rwanda National Football team participated in the Total African Cup of Nations. A flashback of the time, on 7th June 2003 it won against the 4 times champion Ghana’s Black Stars, to secure a place in the Continent’s biggest football tournament that happened in Tunisia the following year. It was a great turn of events in the history of Football in the country that will hardly leave game spectators’ memories. This is because of 1. Analytics and the majority of football followers could never imagine that this small country that has been devastated by the Genocide 10 years back would knock out mighty Ghana and the Ugandan team, which on the other hand, was in good shape. 2. The dubbed “Amavubi” team (which translates to wasps in English) has never qualified or gotten close to do so in this competition that debuted in 1957. Differently this time, the team exhibited dedication, passion, and strength, and its performance inevitably raised its international profile. It was after all a pleasant journey, considering it was the team’s pioneer experience in the event. Yet, it managed to win against the Democratic Republic of Congo, drew against Guinea, and lost to Tunisia, which ended up becoming the champion of that year.
then, the National team has failed to qualify 8 times in this sporting spectacle. Last year’s African Cup of Nation did not give an appealing impression either; All of the Rwandan Easter African community fellows and neighboring nations participated. But Amavubi did not even stand a chance as it lost 4 matches and drew 2 others in its qualifier group with Central Africa Republic, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire (Cyiza and Mwasa,2019). It was a very wretched experience for football lovers across the country as they would have to follow the Continent’s biggest football tournament on Television AGAIN.
But that aside, one can’t help it but wonder what is missing? What did we do wrong? And how can we reverse this situation? Or should we just rest and simply conclude we are not a footballing nation?
Football is unarguably the popular game in the country with millions of followers, thousands of players, more many individuals involved in the running of the game, and tons of games being played on different levels (Bwire, 2002). Over the past years, multi-dimensional investments and initiatives have been made to professionalize and develop the game, which has produced results to some extent( Bwire, 2002). However, we still encounter drawbacks that threaten the game’s prosperity even though some might disagree——–. With a purpose to shed light on root causes that imposed a challenge on the success of football systems, this blog presents some of the perceived significant factors that have an impact on the national team back foot performances and non-success to attend the African cup of Nations.
It is essential to note the paramount importance of infrastructure development on the football development and performance of the teams. Accessibility to good infrastructure was found to have a statistically significant positive correlation with the sporting performance to an adverse degree (Njororai Simiyu, Wycliffe, 2017). Sport development requires access to adequate, quality standards and proper facilities and equipment. However, in Rwanda, sporting facilities are still not up to the mark either on both micro and top level—–. The studies conducted indicate that undersupply standardized training facilities, practice fields, and other forms of support aids is detrimental because it reduces the output and the quality of the players and inflicts deficiency in their professional development, effectiveness and efficiency (Njororai Simiyu, Wycliffe, 2017) When it comes to regional and continental games, you find that the players are at less advantage and more vulnerable compared to their counterparts, as their context prompts them to be a notch below. Furthermore, the lack of excellent facilities and equipment makes the preparation of the clubs unreliable and the games in the stadiums hardly reach the maximum of their capacity(Ekuri, Nadine, 2018). On the same note, Rwanda like many other African countries have more increased infrastructure at the national level in terms of the stadium and pitches; conversely, on the grassroots level, they are often neglected in the planning and investments (Mukaruzima & Frantz, 2019). It brings challenges as half of the teams in the first division are the communities/districts funded and based. This whole situation leads to the declining credibility of the players who also, in turn, are the ones in the national team.
On preparedness, there are different aspects of this determinant to look at when analyzing how far it has contributed to the perpetual failure of Amavubi over time. There are youth development programs and the preparations of the existing team forthcoming the matches. For the former, the governing body FERWAFA, which oversees all the football activities in the country, has been characterized by short-termism in its operations and planning. Due to the country’s socio-economic status and football condition, it might be almost impossible to expect results in 6 months or 1 year. But instead there is a need to revise an integral part of the existing approach/ vision to focus on problem identification, solutions brainstorming paired with long term planning. Case studies of countries like Burundi, Uruguay, Qatar, among others, had their anomaly phases too. Still, relatively they had their shares of sharpening the saw actions and policies that preceded the growth. Rwanda might need the same, contemplating its culture, context, and the available resources to make amendments that target our game philosophy, structure, and operational renovations. is a shortage of professional and robust youth development programs. As the name implies, these would aim to strengthen the abilities and talents of young people in the field. Across the country, those youngsters play in the streets, at the back of their houses or their school playgrounds rarely with guidance or facilitation from the elders. Sadly, the majority of those kids and teenagers are the prospective football champions of the country. Once in a blue moon, the federation introduces differing initiatives to recondition the youth programs, but many of them are not heard afterward, or they weaken as they face challenges/adversities. A judicious development of young local talent would permit the realization of talents, turning youth potentials to mature abilities, giving platforms to the young people to adhere , and be integrated into the system and professional playgrounds at an early age. Another recurring discussion item is the insufficient time for the team to practice for the upcoming games. Either the games conflicting with the agenda of the players in their respective league or competition and training planning of the authority. Amavubi ‘s preparation schedule doesn’t allow players to be in a unified promising cognitive and physical form for the game. There are still constraints for the National team to have tangible and appropriate training that ensures philosophy, tactics, strategies, and mental prep before the games.
Fragile National League
Finishing, the last issue that this blog intends to highlight is the shape of the country’s league. The flawed state of the Rwandan championship inevitably affects the underperformance of Amavubi. Even though there are currently seven international players in the team, they can’t raise the standard alone if there is no cooperation and involvement of the whole team. Secondly, you might even find that the teams they are playing for are not that ruthless in their respective countries. Analysis and evidence have shown that the Rwandan Premier League is among one of the weakest in terms of competency, financial resources, and organizational frameworks (Geoffrey, 2016) . For instance, considering the club’s licensing system rationale, in the inspection conducted by FERWAFA, only 3 teams among 16 got provisional licenses of CAF category B requirements that would permit them to participate in the sporting competition on the continent (FERWAFA, 2019). The competitive spirit is very low amongst the participating teams; at the beginning of each season, only two teams are predicted either one to be a champion, with the others that follow in abilities fighting for a spot in Top 4 and rest working their ways up to get a good position on the table, not to be relocated or worse face the financial losses (Muhamudu, 2019). Having this kind of establishment often confines even the sharp talents to the constant growth in tactical skills and impedes them to exploit their full potential.
Another valid point is that also though it is the country’s most ranked league, it is not of the standard level. It is semi-professional with a lot of amateur teams, impoverished institutional strength, flawed club management, and limited public support(Geoffrey, 2016), which all topped to each other incapacitate it. The league needs to be redeveloped in order to rectify the technical proficiency, and relatively the squad depths and exposure of the players.
Still on the league hindrance , it is equally important to reinforce the capacity of our league divisions as well, this approach would induce a rise in the player profiles of the participants. A particular example is Ghana, which has 4 maintained men’s football league divisions. In this setting, it obliges sports to work hard to break into the first teams. It builds an atmosphere that urges continual upscaling and heavy work for breakthroughs and career progression.
Cyiza, T. and Mwasa, F., 2019. Why Rwanda Could Not Have Qualified For 2019 African Cup Of Nations. [online] THE CHRONICLES. Available at: <https://www.chronicles.rw/2019/03/27/why-rwanda-could-not-have-qualified-for-2019-african-cup-of-nations/> [Accessed 8 May 2020].
Bwire, S., 2002. Rwanda Invests More In Sports To Improve Image. [online] Playthegame.org. Available at: <https://www.playthegame.org/news/news-articles/2002/rwanda-invests-more-in-sports-to-improve-image/> [Accessed 8 May 2020].
Njororai Simiyu, Wycliffe. (2017). Organizational factors influencing football development in East African countries. Soccer & Society. 20. 1-21. 10.1080/14660970.2017.1302931.
Ekuri, Pauline. (2018). Standard Facilities and Equipment as Determinants of High Sports Performance of Cross River State at National Sports Festival. Journal of Public Administration and Governance.
Geoffrey, A. (2016). FERWAFA is a rotten system – Munyandamutsa. Retrieved 9 May 2020, from https://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/204488
FERWAFA. (2019, 09 14). Retrieved from FERWAFA Club Licensing: Decisions of the First Instance Body: http://ferwafa.rw/spip.php?article2533
Mukaruzima, L., & Frantz, J. M. (2019). The Role of the Sports Policy in Promoting Sport for Health in Rwanda. Rwanda Journal of Medicine and Health Sciences, 12.
Stephen, B. (2002). Rwanda Invests More in Sports to Improve Image. Retrieved 9 May 2020, from https://www.playthegame.org/news/news-articles/2002/rwanda-invests-more-in-sports-to-improve-image/
Geoffrey, A. (2016). Why Rwanda has struggled to achieve her sporting targets. Retrieved 9 May 2020, from https://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/203842
Muhamudu, J. (2019). Rwanda Soccer: Are Institutional Clubs Promoting Unfair Competition in Local League?. Retrieved 9 May 2020, from https://www.chronicles.rw/2019/02/14/rwanda-soccer-are-institutional-clubs-promoting-unfair-competition-in-local-league
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