The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune

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On March 22, the Amavubi Stars will host 2013 Africa Cup of Nations' semifinalists Mail in a World Cup qualifier. However a row over bonuses is brewing even before the ball is kicked.

News broke out last week that in the last seven years, match bonuses have dropped from US$2000 (about Rwf1.4m) per match to US$300 (about Rwf0.2m) and, consequently, some professional players are contemplating to snub national team calls altogether.

Team captain Olivier Karekezi said, "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).

Karekezi has a point, days of putting country before clubs are long gone.

This brings into play an old saying, "He who pays the piper calls the tune."

This old saying means, simply, that if you are paying for something then you get to decide how it will be done; just as, if you are paying a musician to play for you, you would expect to be allowed to choose what music you like.

Maybe Karekezi has a point. He rather stays at the club that pays the wages. And they still pay the wages when they come back from international assignments injured.

Patriotism no longer counts when it comes to capitalism. Our national players mayn't be on very lucrative contracts at their respective clubs, but players see no need of trekking half way the world to come and earn only US$300. They would rather stay at their clubs.

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.

Bonuses paid to players after national assignments should not be tinkered with.

The ministry should work on bringing equity into the remuneration of all athletes.

The heavy investments into football by government to pay wages, bonuses and other expenses should be slashed drastically and would be channeled to football development. Despite the investment there is nothing to show for it.

This ministry would rather find ways in increasing alternatives to financing sports in general.

Government's expenditure on football is very expensive and, in collaboration with all stakeholders, they should find other sources of resources so government can channel these dimes into sports development projects.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the crisis that struck Africa had many consequences. The Drought resulted in one of the worst famines Africa has known.

The fall in the prices of major commodities like coffee, cotton and tea made foreign exchange very scarce and expensive.

Most African countries could not import enough goods or produce enough essential goods.

Countries found themselves in a tight and desperate situation, thus seeking financial assistance from the World Bank and the IMF mainly because they could not get any assistance elsewhere as the cold war was coming to an end.

So the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund became primary lenders, naturally they made assistance available on their own terms.

This was when the term Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) was adopted.

These SAPs were mainly concerned with policies that would ensure that countries would, first of all, reduce on their expenditure. And one of the first victims of these programmes was governments pulling out of lending a hand to sports development.

This is what our sports federations haven't come to grasps with. In simple terms, the administrators have failed to initiate alternative revenue channels and stop relying on government.

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