Last year, Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi outlined targets for sports institutions in the country for the next six years. They included making the national football team amongst the top 10 on the continent, helping the volleyball and basketball teams to move up to the third and fourth positions on the African scene and provide more financial government support.
However, 12 months after the set targets, it appears that apart from the sport of cycling, none of the targets will be achieved unless miracles are performed. The national football team is out of contention for the African Cup qualifiers and is certain to lose out in the battle for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Amavubi, moreover, have gone on an eight match winless streak stretching back to December last year.
Rwanda will now wait for the African nations' cup qualifiers of 2014, which they need to excel in to qualify for the 2015 African Nations Cup in Morocco and to defy all odds and win the 2016 African championship. "It is disappointing to miss out on qualifying for Africa Nations Cup finals, but we can take the positives from this experience," said Amavubi Coach Milutin Sredojovic Micho after the team's disappointing elimination from the African Cup qualifiers. "We need to look for young players who are eager to play for their country, players who are willing to do and give their best for the national side."
Micho continues: "If we can have four to five players playing top quality professional football in Europe, it could make a very big difference."
With Solomon Nirisarike, Imran Nshimiyimana, Tumaine Ntamuhanga, Emery Bayisenge and the experience of Haruna Niyonzima, Jean Claude Iranzi and keeper Jean Claude Ndoli, the Serbian coach has the backbone to build a strong Amavubi team.
Football, moreover, is the biggest sport in the country and the sport draws many fans, from top government officials to the ordinary fans. President Paul Kagame is a known Arsenal fan and is one of the few African leaders who never misses a game. The Cecafa Kagame Cup is sponsored by the president to a tune of $60,000 every year, and the government spends huge sums for the national team, while Rwanda is the only East African country to host two continental football tournaments and already has the rights to host the 2016 African Championship.
So while it might be extremely difficult to achieve the target of being in the top 10 in six years time, it is not completely untenable. But it becomes more challenging for basketball where a league made of six clubs has little structure. The basketball league sometimes runs for two years because clubs are broke and can't afford basic transport for their players to honor matches. With weak clubs not able to provide quality players to the national team, the Basketball Federation resorted to hiring foreigners and giving them nationality to play for the national team, something that angered many people and stifled the raw talent in the country. But that is something new Basketball President Desire Mugwiza has vowed to change." The future of basketball is in the youth," Mugwiza says. "It is why we are hosting the U-18 men and women tourney so that we scout for young talented basketballers and nurture them to have a good senior team in the shortest time possible." With no league sponsor, basketball clubs don't have any income to provide salaries to their players and often rely on the mercy of a club president to get some allowance after match games. There is no prize money for winning the league and with fans shunning matches, the new basketball administrators have promised to come up with ways of revamping the game.
For sports like rugby, cricket and athletics, progress will depend on the good will of people who like the games and commit their own money to it. These sports don't have consistent running leagues and their only source of income is derived from the annual money they receive from their respective International Federations. With a small private sector reluctant to put money in sports because they don't see any value, it will be very difficult to see any realistic change in sports in the country.