The PSG Academy Rwanda squad of 24 kids that were crowned 2023 PSG Club World Cup champions in Paris, France, on June 5, after beating Brazil in the final both in the U11 and U13 groups, returned home to a heroes' welcome, on Wednesday, June 7.
Their head coach, Grace Nyinawumuntu, was thrilled while speaking to The New Times a few hours after the team, including four coaches, arrived at Kigali International Airport.
"We are so happy! We were given a huge surprise welcome by the kids' parents, the staff from the football federation, FERWAFA, a delegation from the Ministry of Sports and RDB, and others. Many people were at the airport to welcome us and we were so happy," Nyinawumuntu said.
Rwanda's U11 and U13 teams were crowned world champions after beating Brazil in the final at the Parc des Princes. The U13 youngsters retained the trophy they won in 2022 after trouncing Brazil in the final 4-3 on penalties. The U11 team claimed their first title of the competition in which they finished fourth in 2022 after beating the South Americans 3-2 on penalties.
Skipper Samuel Shema, who scored the lone goal for Rwanda U11 in the final, was named the tournament's most valuable player (MVP). Derrick Ntakirutimana took home the goalkeeper of the tournament award after he conceded only four goals in eight games.
The kids', and Rwanda football future, is great, Nyinawumuntu told The New Times, noting that the talented young squad should be taken care of properly. For that to go well, she noted, everyone - the local football federation, the government, and all other stakeholders - must play a significant role.
Nyinawumuntu is the coach and technical director at the Huye-based PSG Rwanda academy which now has more than 200 kids under its wing.
Nyinawumuntu said: "On our part, we are going to continue our training sessions in order to prepare for next year's competition because we need to win trophies all the coming years. We don't want to be beaten by any country.
"Lately, any country that meets Rwanda comes with fear. And my request to everyone in charge of football in the country is to take good care of all of these kids; stay close to them, and support them in all ways possible in order to strengthen them such that we have a better future Amavubi [national football team]."
Jeanine Mukarurangwa, the mum of 10-year-old Arsene Mugisha, a member of the U11 team, was ecstatic.
She said: "We are so happy to see our children go abroad and return with a win. I was very happy, at the onset, when I was informed that my son, Arsene, was selected to travel abroad to play football."
Mugisha's mother, however, regrets events in the past when she often discouraged the boy from playing football.
"I used to get so worried whenever he would spend almost the entire day out, without eating, just because he was playing football. One day, I beat him up when I found out that he used my head wrap to make a ball. When I confronted him, he said he will buy me another one. He was very little. But now, when I hear that he is out playing, I am always glad."