Didier Gomes da Rosa has a big challenge on his hands after taking over the reins at Rayon Sport. The 2004 league champions have endured one of their worst league starts in the club's history and for many fans and neutrals alike, the Frenchman needs to hit the ground running when he takes charge of his first match next month.
After watching from the stands as the Blues thumped Police 2-0 and then lost 1-2 against Mukura, the 41-year-old will have his first real chance on December 16 when Rayon entertain Isonga.
Since 2004 when they won their last league title, the club has developed a conservative mentality as a result of APR's continued dominance but it's up to Gomes to show that the team can dictate and thrive when expectation abounds.
Under Ali Bizimungu, the team got off to the worst possible start - losing their opening three matches against Amagaju (1-2), AS Kigali (1-3) and La Jeunesse (0-1). They recovered well to win their next two fixtures; Marines (1-0) and Police (2-0) before suffering their fourth defeat of the season against Mukura (1-2).
However, a 3-1 win against historical rivals and table leaders SC Kiyovu brought new confidence and something for Gomes to build on when he returns from France at the end of this month.
The league is currently on hold to pave way for the region's oldest football tournament Cecafa Tusker Challenge Cup which will be held in Kampala from November 24 to December 8. But when the regional tournament is done and dusted, it will be work as usual for the Frenchman who was preferred to Uganda's Sam Timbe, the controversial Raoul Shungu, and Burundi's Cedric Kaze who recently replaced Emmanuel Ruremesha at Mukura.
After signing a one-year renewable contract, Rayon's Secretary General Olivier Gakwaya was quick to point out that Gomes' contract extension depends on how well the team fairs. "We are happy to reveal that we have reached an agreement with Gomes. He has signed a one-year contract with a mission of winning either the league or Peace Cup by the end of the season," Gakwaya was quoted as saying at the time.
Last season, Rayon finished sixth but not even a runner-up finish will be good enough to keep Gomes at Rayon as the club chairman Abdallah Murenzi recently pointed out. "His task is very clear: to win the league or Peace Cup because the club's target is to play continental football next season and the only way of realizing this goal is if the club wins one of the two events," he said.
At the beginning of the season, the Blues played with a worrying lack of assertion, style, fluidity, confidence or any of the other qualities required to win matches but Bizimungu, who will work closely with Gomes, believes that the Tusker Challenge Cup will give the latter enough time to try out different combinations and learn more about his players.
"It's never easy especially when you are working with new players because you have to quickly learn their strengths and weaknesses but I'm sure he will cope with the huge demands," Bizimungu said.
Prior to joining Rayon, Gomes had also been linked with the Amavubi coaching job only to lose out to Milutin 'Micho' Sredojovic. While in France, he coached the likes of US Cagnes sur Mer, Etoile de Fos Sur mer, AS Roquebrune Cap Martin and FC Antibes.
RAYON'S UPCOMING LEAGUE FIXTURES
Primus League (first round)
Isonga vs Rayon (December 16)
Rayon vs Etincelles (December 19)
Muhanga vs Rayon (December 23)
Rayon vs Musanze (December 26)
Espoir vs Rayon (December 30)
Rayon vs APR (Dates to be confirmed)
League titles (6)
1975, 1981, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2004
Peace Cup (8)
1976, 1979, 1982, 1989, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2005
Cecafa Kagame Cup (1)