Hope through football in rebounding Rwanda

FIFA took another big step on Tuesday towards fulfilling its commitment to building 20 Football for Hope centres across Africa with the opening of the Kimisagara Football for Hope Centre in Rwanda.

It’s the seventh of the 20 planned projects and continues the legacy of the official campaign of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ – ‘20 Centres for 2010’.

Rwanda sports and culture minister Protais Mitali officially opened the centre at the start of an afternoon of colourful festivities in the hills of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. An official ribbon-cutting and plaque-unveiling ceremony was followed by dancing and singing and a match on the new artificial turf built by FIFA for the centre.

Hundreds of school kids from the community turned out to provide an enthusiastic backdrop, not only to the sport and cultural activities, but to cheer speakers from government, FIFA and the Rwanda Football Association as festivities carried on way past dusk.

The 2010 World Cup may long be over but its legacy keeps on growing.
FIFA’s CSR Programme Manager Cornelia Genoni

“The 2010 World Cup may long be over but its legacy keeps on growing,” FIFA’s CSR Programme Manager Cornelia Genoni told the large crowd. “Hosting the first World Cup in Africa was far more than just hosting a football tournament. FIFA made a commitment that we would leave a tangible social legacy for the whole of Africa, not only the host nation. With the opening of this centre, it marks another step to fulfilling FIFA’s promise of putting football to work for promotion of youth and social projects.”

The centre in Kigali is run by Esperance – Association des Jeunes Sportifs de Kigali (association of sporting youth in Kigali), whose primary objective is to support young people through counselling and training to overcome ethnic divides and become peace advocates in the community.

It is a contribution to the continual healing in the east African country following the genocide in 1994 that left the nation traumatised and with a major ethnic divide. Rwanda has become an international symbol of peace and reconciliation, with football playing its part.

The Esperance centre offers opportunities for between 150-200 children in the suburban district to take part in programmes and courses, participate in theatre and, importantly, play football. The club have a team in Rwanda’s second division and have already provided two players who have gone onto to represent the country’s national team.

The Kigali centre follows the opening of similar projects in Khayelitsha (Cape Town, South Africa), Katatura (Windhoek, Namibia), Mathare (Nairobi, Kenya), Baguineda (Bamako, Mali), Maseru (Lesotho) and Cape Coast in Ghana.

A further 13 Football for Hope Centres will be completed by the middle of next year in Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

“Each centre has the same concept of using football to promote hope and opportunity for the young generation, but each is also unique,” Genoni added. “FIFA is committed to giving of its expertise and resources on behalf of social challenges across the globe.”

Rwanda Football Association president Celestin Ntagungira concluded by thanking FIFA for their efforts: “This is a centre that produces future leaders for our country, both on and off the pitch.”