Amavubi Stars' poor performance in international matches may continue following reports that professional players might refuse to show up for next month's World Cup Brazil 2014 qualifier against Mali due to 'meagre match bonuses', Times Sport has learnt.
Rwanda will host Mali on March 22 in Group H's World Cup 2014 first round qualifying match.
Match bonuses given to Amavubi players have played over the years since the country last qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Tunisia in 2004.
In the last seven years, match bonuses have dropped from US$2000 (about Rwf1.4m) per match to US$700 (about Rwf0.47m) and, consequently, some professional players are contemplating to snub national team calls altogether and instead concentrate on their clubs.
Skipper Olivier Karekezi said yesterday, "The issue of match bonuses has been a critical in the success of our national team. The money we're given these days when we honour the Amavubi call range between US$300 and US$700 for a win, which is too little."
"It is not appropriate to board a plane and leave your club to play for your country and, at the end of the day, you get paid only US$300 (approx. Rwf0.2m).
"I think the Ministry of Sports and Culture should consider increasing match bonuses if we need positive results for the team, the players need to be well motivated to be able to give their all," the striker, who plays for Tunisian side CA Bizertin, told Times Sport from Tunis by phone.
He argued that professional players can not be ignored and a decision to field only young home-based players will not yield any results in the near future. "Against Mali, we need a full squad or else we forget getting anything from the game," he noted.
In a recent interview with the local media, Sports Minister Protais Mitali said, "Foreign-based players, who would refuse to play for Amavubi, should be punished to avoid a bad atmosphere in the national team."
"Many of these players are mercenaries who were given Rwandan nationality and this is why I am advocating to fielding young Rwandan players who are proud to play for their nation," added the Minister.
Mitali's comments must surely not have down well with some people, especially the players whose original nationality wasn't Rwandan, and there has been quite a big number of them although the trend has been reversing lately.
Some of the professional players that coach Milutin 'Micho' Sredojovic will be hoping to summon for the Mali qualifier include Steven Godfroid [Olympic Charleroi-Belgium], Kalisa Mao [TP Mazembe-DRC], Jonas Nahimana [AFC Leopards-Kenya], Dady Birori [AS Vita-DRC], Elias Uzamukunda [AS Cannes-France].
Others are Olivier Karekezi [AS Bizertin-Tunisia], Charles Tibingana [Victoria-Uganda], Jimmy Mulisa [Osotspa-Thailand], Jean Paul Lutula [Al Mu'aidar-Qatar], Lewis Aniweta [APEP FC-Cyprus], Edwin Oun [AEL Limassol-Cyprus], Haruna Niyonzina and Mbuyu Twite (both Yanga).
Bottom of group:
Benin currently leads the group with four points from two matches, while Algeria and Mali are second with 3 points. Rwanda has one point from 2 matches and face an uphill task to make up ground on the three teams ahead of them.
Rwanda will play Mali in the return leg on June 7 and, a week later, host Algeria in Kigali. Their final Round 2 Group H match is against Benin in Cotonou on September 6.
Only the best performing team in each group will go through to the final African qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup.
2014 World Cup qualifier:
Rwanda vs Mali