opinionBy Hamza Nkuutu
Ideally, whatever is going on in the basketball federation in relation to putting an end to using foreigners, especially Americans on the national team should be a welcome relief for whoever cares about the sport and its future.
Why is it that the persons managing sports in this country are always quick to deny what they have said after realizing it may put them in a place of bother with a few individuals, however few?
Why hide the truth when the message in the public is very loud and clear? If you're not man enough to stand up to what you said, particularly if it's the truth, then you don't know what you're doing and in that case, you're in a wrong place.
Since 2007, Rwanda basketball federation (Ferwaba), have been trying hard to make sure the national teams, and in doing so, they have, like it is said, left no stone unturned in trying to achieve their objectives.
That's why no one, or at least, publically, came out to oppose the idea of recruiting (read hiring) Americans and Congolese. The few dissenting voices to the idea were too few and immaterial to matter.
And it's not only in basketball, even in football, it had been the case for years until President Kagame expressed his frustration with the idea of using 'foreigners' since they were not making any difference.
The country wasn't winning anything yet spending so much on 'scouting' the whole Europe for whoever was interested in playing international football but had no chance of playing for their 'own' countries.
When His Excellency made it clear he wanted anymore of foreigners, who weren't doing anything exceptional that real Rwandan players couldn't, and instead channel those resources and attention on developing home grown talent, the message was heard and so the birth of Isonga FC.
Now back to basketball, Ferwaba Secretary General Richard Mutabazi, in an interview last week, said that the national team will no longer use American players, who have cost the country so much in tax-payers' money.
"We have decided not to use them anymore. They have been so costly for the country," he told Times Sport.
"They were playing on contracts but we will not depend on them anymore, not because they haven"t been useful but because of their (big) contracts. It is not good for the other players on the team, who don't get even half of what they have been getting," he noted.
According to Mutabazi, some of the American guys were being paid as high as US$15,000 (approx. Rwf9.8m) for every competition, exclusive of bonuses.
The official stated that the other reason for the change in policy is to give young Rwandese players a chance to play for their country.
"This will not only increase chances of local players playing for their country at the highest level but also the attendances for matches. There is need to give more local young players (more) playing time - something they have been missing," he explained.
A day later, maybe after coming under pressure for leaking the changes to the media, which to them were supposed to remain internal, he denied almost everything he had said, including not knowing anything to do with the players' contracts!
Who does he think he's fooling? Does he not think some journalists are intelligent enough to know about these contracts from other reliable sources other than him?
He wasn't under any duress when he said whatever he said in the first story titled, 'No more Americans on basketball team', so why come to deny the truth?
Rob Thompson's reaction to the story that appeared in Times Sport last week regarding the future of all 'non-Rwandan' players, says everything you need to know about the issue.
Of all the American players, I don't remember well the exact number but they were many, only Thompson is a legitimate naturalised Rwandan because he's married to a Rwandan wife.
In defence of his position on the team, Thompson, said, "It's funny that this article just came out (after) the President of FERWABA informed me in July that I was the only one who would be invited back."
"On top of that, I only signed 1 contract in 6 years unless my signature has been forged. I have been advocating since 2007 that we should not play with so many foreigners. I repeat, SINCE 2007!!!!!"
He added, "I was legitimately naturalised and have flown from other jobs to play for Rwanda. In 2009, I was infuriated about how many foreigners played for the team."
During the 2009 Afrobasket Men's Championships in Tripoli where Rwanda finished 13th out of 16 countries, the team had not a single Rwandan, even the country's star man, Hamza Ruhezamihigo was on the bench throughout-in total, he played not more than 10 minutes! Amazing stuff, isn't it?
And for Mutabazi, instead of being proud of the stance the federation has taken to focus on young Rwandan players, is busy playing political games-that's rubbish.
To Mutabazi and his likes, Rwandans know what they want and are proud to be who and what they're, and for that, I believe they would care less seeing their own underperform or even underachieve for a less budget than an expensively assembled team full of Americans with no attachment to the country other than financial gains.