Football in Rwanda
Sport is a passion in Rwanda, with football being the most popular, as throughout most of Africa. The Rwanda Football Association administers the national team – Amavubi, which translates as The Wasps – as well as the Azam Rwanda Premier League.
Amavubi compete as a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), as well as the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA), which involves 11 East African nations. The team won the latter in 1998 and has been runner up numerous times. Whilst Amavubi have yet to qualify for the World Cup, they reached their first Africa Cup of Nations in 2004.
The Azam Rwanda Premier League is frequently dominated by Kigali’s APR FC. Other successful clubs include Nyanza’s Rayon Sport and Kigali’s Atraco. Matches generally take place at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali on Sunday afternoons at 4pm, with fixtures advertised in the New Times the week beforehand.
Thanks to the work of Grace Nyinawumuntu, a pioneer in the development of women’s football in Rwanda, there is now a national female team which Grace coaches. The She-Amavubi, or She-Wasps, played its first official match in the Women’s Challenge Cup in 2004, against Kenya. The team has yet to quality for an African championship or World Cup.
Football is also helping Rwanda in its journey of reconciliation and growth following the genocide. Rayon Sports player Eric Murangwa Eugene founded Football for Hope, Peace and Unity (FHPU) in 2010, which delivers football for social impact programmes across the country with the help of Coaches Across Continents. FHPU believes that “football moves the world”, and provides weekly training and engagement sessions. They are determined to make football the cornerstone of the youth’s new feeling of social responsibility, acquired through peace-building education and development.
Eric was awarded an MBE by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2018 for his work with FHPU. He thanks football for his survival of the genocide, with teammates and staff at his club risking their lives to protect him.
Many of the young people reached by football organisations in Rwanda are orphans of the genocide or children of perpetrators and exiles. Football brings them together, builds their self-esteem and gives them a sense of belonging. It contributes to their education – both as students and citizens. Teaching young people tolerance, respect and social responsibility is vital to rebuilding communities and ensuring that such violence never happens again.