COMPETITION in youth football is at the forefront of the most popular sport in the world today. Success in youth football is currently considered the highest measure of team progress.
The Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa) and the Rwanda School Sports Federation (FRSS) must work together to develop inter-school football competitions if the country is to unearth the next generation of future stars.
The two institutions recently signed a five-year partnership under which Ferwafa will provide technical support such as coaching education and football internships for talented young players.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s until 2008, inter-school games were at a relatively high level and top-flight clubs took advantage of this to seek out football’s most promising players.
So many people from all over the country paid great attention to the competitions and came in droves to watch the football matches. However, over the years, the competitions have run out of steam, hence the drop in the number of young players coming out of the ranks.
“We need to raise our level of grassroots football, especially in schools, we want football to become a business,” said Olivier Mugabo Nizeyimana, president of Ferwafa.
“Our goal with FRSS is to start from primary schools and have football competitions in the U-11s and progress to the U-13s, U-15s and U-17s. We have to help the younger generation to become stars,” he added.
Interscholastic games have produced some of the best football players in the country. Some of the schools that have produced good athletes and footballers in the past are ASPEJ from Rwamagana, Groupe Scolaire from Gahini, Inyemeramihigo from Gisenyi, Mutenderi from Kibungo and among others.
And if you compare the level of inter-school competitions of that time with what we have today, the difference is like night and day. The teams are no longer as competitive as before but above all, the organization leaves so much to be desired.
This is why the people running the sport in the country need to go back to the drawing board and find out where things are going wrong like they did ten years ago.
Everyone needs to stand up and see if there is anything that can be done to have strong interscholastic competitions at the primary and secondary levels, where the athletes are at their most promising stage and easiest to develop. There is a need to revive and promote traditional sports and games.
In countries where they know what it takes to compete at the highest level, athletes are prepared from an early age and Rwanda should not be left out.
Our athletes are still not ready for the big tournaments because we haven’t prepared them well enough. If we did it would help the national teams and we need to have continuity in everything we do if the country is to be able to survive in this increasingly competitive world.
The federation must launch plans to promote the sport in schools where the country will have more athletes in the future. They must go to the grassroots, starting with primary schools, and give young people the basics of any sport that interests them.
It is high time for the Ministry of Sports, in collaboration with the National Olympic Committee of Rwanda, to develop a plan to recruit more national athletes in schools.
These two institutions must ensure that the individual federations promote, develop, encourage and control all forms of sports in Rwandan schools.
This would undoubtedly have a positive impact on the country’s performance in international competitions; it has worked for other countries, so there is no reason for it to fail for Rwanda.