2 January 2014

Rwanda: Is Rwemarika Only Candidate for Women's Seat in Ferwafa?

Women's football is not new yet the input by women in the formulation of policies for the development of female football sports is still insignificant.

In Rwanda, the 'fairer sex' has seen only one female candidate contest for the upcoming football elections, as the head of women's football in the country, despite being widely considered as a 'man's game' in which women are seen as marginal.

Félicité Rwemarika who has spent the last six years in the corridors of the local football governing body, Ferwafa, has continued to scale her interest in Rwandan women's football; a reason why, she is the only female contestant set to regain her position not long from today.

Rwemarika believes the fact that women's soccer is not so popular today inevitably means that many women are anxious to contest for the position in the federation. However, the federation is eager to intensify all measures as far as promoting and developing women's football in the country is concerned.

Rwemarika adds that the reason why she is contesting in these elections is not because she is the best but because others are anxious and capable to execute the same tasks.

Given all the time she has spent in this position, Rwemarika says that there are many positive changes that have been achieved by women who have actively continued to pick interest in the sport for instance in coaching, leadership in their respective clubs, officiating and with time more is yet to be seen in prospect.

In Rwanda today, the number of women's football clubs has increased from 11 to 16 in just one year. Rwemarika who has observed such a rise says that, in future the women's football department will initiate a second division league where other teams can compete on leveled platform.

Either way, Rwemarika may boast about the changes as well as seeking an extra term in women's football, but some critics whose interests continue to differ believe she has not done enough for women's football in the country.

They believe a constant theme seems to run through women's football when it comes to sponsorship, drawing crowds larger than the players on the pitch, the national team preparations to mention but a few.

According to them, women's football has seen little press coverage in the Rwandan media and the input by women in the formulation of policies for the development of female football sports is still insignificant yet the country has achieved success in the promotion for the cause of women from within the Government and around Rwanda.

The national women's league was formed in 2008 and Rwanda remains the only country in the region with a viable league, but it still faces an avalanche of challenges related to funding for the clubs with most of its funding coming from FIFA.

Will all ill-defined attempts at promoting active involvement of Rwandan women especially in competitive football have had to contend with more problems like national team selection and coaching staff?

Last year, Ferwafa president Celestin Ntagungira commonly known as Abega subsequently promised that the national team which was last active close to four years ago would schedule to play an international match in July against the She Cranes of Uganda as part of the preparation or continental competitions later in the year with Kenya.

Ntagungira vowed in the past that, "the women's national team has got almost everything in place to start business including head coach Antoine Rutsindura who has been tasked to pick the best players in the country."

"We are planning to revamp the team, make it strong and ready to compete in African competitions starting with friendly games which will help them pick up form to be able to play at a high level," said Ntagungira.

That said, Ferwafa wrote to their Ugandan counterparts requesting for the friendly, however, the Ugandans did not respond.

In spite of the promise Ntagungira views "should be taken with a pinch of salt", the friendly game between the two female teams did not take place because of lack of sponsorship and until today, the national team has no head coach.

Speaking to Focus Sports, Rwemarika said, "There are three candidates who submitted their resumes for the post and the interviews have just been underway and the announcement will be made any time this week."

Rwanda's last competitive game was in 2009 against Uganda in the preliminary round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers which they lost 1-0 at the Regional stadium in Nyamirambo.

The She Amavubi of Rwanda will face a tall order when they tackle Kenya in the first round of the 2014 CAF Africa women's championship qualifiers during the weekend of February 13-15 before the second leg a fortnight later. The winner will proceed to the next round to play the winner of the Nigeria/Sierra Leone fixture in preparation for the CAF African women's championship that will be held in Namibia.

With such critics, much of the heat is off and Rwemarika remains the only figure running for the head of women's football seat, while so keen not to rock the boat. She is credited with developing the sport in the country by being the founder of the Association of Kigali Women in Football amongst other things.

"When we announce the national head coach, preparations will immediately start as the selection for players will be made from the clubs and schools. We are looking forward to improve women's football by training more coaches from different clubs to enhance on their capacity," added Rwemarika.

Save for nothing more than a bundle of promises that have been the same repeated old pledges from leaders in the sports industry, the vibe is so patronizing in women's football much as having a well-regarded player pathway and a strong talent development from the grassroots levels.

What remains interesting is where the road is heading for the Rwandan women in football, if the next titanic ship is to be captained by Rwemarika for the next four years?

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