The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: It's a National Disgrace!

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Rwanda prides itself in maintaining zero tolerance for corruption. The vice is largely blamed for the under development of African football. African football has potential to grow to the levels of Europe or South America but what happens is that our football managers channel the resources to their own personal interests.

In most African countries, the so called federations set up to support the sport unfortunately usually turn out to be driven by personal interests of the individuals who run them, especially financial interests.

Rwanda's leadership has been able to change this trend, by holding everybody regardless of their status in society, accountable.

Last week, the Football Association, Ferwafa, reduced the ban that it had slapped on former Amavubi assistant coach, Jean Marie Ntagwabira, from five years to two.

The ban was imposed on Ntagwabira after admitting to match-fixing. In organised sports, match fixing occurs as a match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result, violating the rules of the game and often the law. This makes it a criminal offence.

Ferwafa's ethics and legal committee composed of its chairman Emmanuel Mahame Itamwa, Jules Mabano [vice] and Janvier Muhoza [secretary general], which met on December 11, determined that Ntagwabira will now serve a two-year suspension after hearing his appeal.

According to the committee, Ntagwabira's ban was reduced because this was the first time the coach had been the first person to implicating himself in match-fixing. They also said, in a statement, that Ntagwabira had played a vital role in the development of Rwandan football as a coach and player.

The former Rwandan international shocked football fraternity in July when he confessed to bribing Rayon players to throw away a league game against SC Kiyovu in 2009.

He admitted to using one Issa Kayinamura to bribe a couple of players, whose identities remain a secret, to underperform. The encounter ended 3-2 in favour of Kiyovu which Ntagwabira coached at the time.

The 38-year old is the only coach to have won the national football league with two different clubs APR (4) and Atraco (1), and is rated by many as the best ever Rwandan coach.

In 2006, the Italian match fixing scandal, known as Calciopoli, broke out implicating top clubs including; Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina of leveraging improper and unacceptable levels of influence in choosing referees for top flight matches.

Juventus were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A league titles.

Until today, the Italian football has never recovered from that dark period.

Ntagwabira's confession should have been taken as a hint into the rot in Rwandan football.

The ministry of sports and culture, with the help of the national police, should have launched an investigation into the running of football in the country.

If he did it with Kiyovu, what happened when he was still at APR, Atraco and Rayon.

Football, despite being Africa's most loved and popular sport, is faced with classic irony about its hindered development caused especially by those who are elected or appointed to manage it.

An open public investigation into Ntagwabira's confessions should have presented a chance to overhaul Rwanda's football administration. However, everything has been swept under the rag. The appeal hearing was not conducted in public.

The blame for ruining the game in the country squarely falls on the football federation and stakeholders.

"Goalkeeper" management, awful federation, narrow-minded media, and football politics are all to blame for the bad state of the game in the country.

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