Rwanda’s footballing profile has climbed rapidly over the last 10 years, profiting principally from the patronage of the country’s football-loving president Paul Kagame. Investment and work to host regional tournaments allowed the hosting of continental championships and home advantage has finally allowed Rwanda to reap some profit. Rwanda’s breakthrough came at senior level at the African Nations Cup finals in Tunisia in 2004 where they qualified for the first time and turned in a reputable performance. Hosting the CAF Youth Championship in 2009 gave hopes that their U-20 side would reach the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but Rwanda had to wait two years to fulfil that promise at the U-17 level.
By being the first side to reach the semi-final of the CAF U-17 Championships, hosts Rwanda made sure of their place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup after just two matches. A 2-1 win over Burkina Faso in the opening game of the tournament was followed up by a 1-0 victory over Egypt. In effect, three goals were enough for a world championship place but if there was any doubt about their credentials, Rwanda’s youngsters went all the way to the final. Indeed had it not been for the burden of expectation from the home fans and a stunning winner by Burkina Faso in the rematch, Rwanda might well have won a first continental title as well.
French coach Richard Tardy has made it clear there is still much work to do with his young side before Mexico 2011. “We should work hard and make it harder for anybody at the World Cup. Our next move is to start preparations and our target there would be to go at least to the second round,” Tardy asserted. The coach has also said that he is looking to bring in some new players with Rwandan heritage who are at the academies of top European sides.
|16||Jean Marie RUSINGIZANDEKWE|