The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Uyisenga, the 'Goalkeepers' and 'Abacuba'

Before I read a Riot Act to the "goalkeepers" let me first congratulate Senator Charles Uyisenga upon his appointment as a member of International Volleyball Federation's Development Commission.

The appointment is a vote of confidence that the world governing body has in Rwanda and I hope he will serve with the devotion and professionalism for the development of the game globally, but first at home.

Sen. Uyisenga has been working closely with the volleyball federation as well as other sports activities in the country for a long time.

Back to purpose of the column.

I have pledged to all sports stakeholders to help save our beloved country from the annoying and unknowledgeable characters ruining our sports federations and sports clubs.

Rwanda opts out

Before I could finish celebrating Rwanda's election to the United Nation Security Council and still digesting Uyisenga appointment, some two "goalkeepers", embarrassed the country by declaring that Rwanda would be hosting the 2013 African Junior Athletics Championship.

However, by look of things they hadn't consulted with their parent ministry and the ministry of finance to evaluate if the funds are available.

Obviously, the Rwanda Athletics Federation had not anticipated the cost of Rwf2bn to host the showpiece. The Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) informed Rwanda that they would have to inject over US$2 million to facilitate the championship.

For Government to sink its money into sports it needs to be shown its value. Handouts shouldn't be taken as charity. I believe government would have taken the issue up if the Federation had shown the importance of hosting such event. The goalkeepers couldn't do that however.

Service Passports, "abacuba" and the "goalkeepers"

Last week, local media was awash with reports about the national basket team's American players. All along the country has been made to believe that Manix Auriantal, Edouard Miller, Kenneth, Cameron Bradley, and Mathieu Miller are naturalised Rwandans.

In simple terms, the federation fooled the nation in believing that they are Rwandans of American origin. However it's not the case.

In their defence the "goalkeepers" say that they hold service passports. I don't harbor xenophobic tendencies nor am I an extremist nationalist or a leftist; I just want the best for Rwanda.

It seems the "goalkeepers" at the federations don't know the requirements for the national team.

Talent aside, the universal requirement to be considered for national team selection is that one has to be a citizen of a given country, considering all the circumstances for acquisition of citizenship.

In Rwanda's case, anyone who is selected for any national team must be eligible for a National Identity Card or Ordinary Passport.

According to Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration, service passports are availed to nationals or non-nationals who are working in the interest of Rwanda.

Having a service passport doesn't mean that you are Rwandan national. Such provisions don't apply to the national teams. Those of you who are versed with Ugandan slangs, you have heard of a term abacuba or mercenaries.

It has its roots in the Cubans and to some extent South Africans, who roamed Africa in the 19960s to 1980s as contract armies. They are mercenaries.

The term was popularised in inter-schools' competitions to refer to students who play for a given school yet they aren't students of that school.

To don a national team jersey should be every youngster's dream but the "goalkeepers" in our sports federations have reduced it to band of mercenaries.

Whether or not the players fulfill the selection criteria is issue for another day but our federations should be held accountable for suffocating local talent in favour of mercenaries.

The federations' number one priority must remain building grassroots support for the game. If this is done, a successful national team will automatically follow.

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