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By Robert Mugabe
RWANDA-Amavubi performed well in their bid to qualify for the 2015 Morocco qualifiers by defeating Libya and Congo Brazzaville but it seems that the country won’t be facing Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan in the group qualifiers.
The issue came to light when Congo Brazzaville lodged a complaint to CAF about Daddy Birori, when Amavubi defeated Congo by 4-2 on penalties subsequent to a 2-2 draw on aggregate in the two legs played during the 2015 Morocco qualifiers of African Nations Cup.
The decision was taken by the Confederation of African Football Federation because the player is registered with two identities for both holding different names and a dissimilar date of birth.
The player holds a Congolese passport bearing the name Agiti Tady Etekiama, but while featuring for Rwanda –Amavubi, the player is called Daddy Birori.
But since then the, issue ban has turned out to be a bitter pill to swallow for most of the Rwanda fans most especially newly appointed English Coach Stephen Constantine who was disappointed by CAF’s decision.
The Brit who took charge of the national football team in May on a two-year contract wrote on his twitter page. “I was shocked by the decision to ban Rwanda from the continental competition.I am bitterly disappointed with Caf’s decision, the same complaint was made by Libya and it was dismissed so what has changed! A great shame.”
Before playing Congo, Rwanda ousted Libya with Birori scoring a hat trick in the return leg in Kigali except that during the second return leg against Congo, the Coach opted not to summon him for national duty to try and avoid the troubles, but that was too late.
Despite the fact that a player can change nationalities, CAF has to be informed, and as a player, he should not have used both identities, or else he would change nationality but remain with his name of birth just like Uganda’s Meddie Kagere who plays for Amavubi.
In a country like Rwanda which has seen its population displace and dispersed in recent years, its true there are bound to be players born outside but to a Rwandese parents.
Much as Rwanda is targeting the continental or world stage like the African Cup for the second time, the habit of recruiting football mercenaries continues. Many of the players who play or the local clubs and the national team, don’t have very close links to the country, even with the objective of nurturing home grown talent.
When the country qualified for the 2004 African Cup debut in Tunisia, Ferwafa scored Europe chiefly Belgium, for any African who are good enough and willing to change nationalities.
Take Jimmy Mulisa, who was born and grew up in neighboring Uganda to a Rwandan father returned to Rwanda and played his football here.
An excellent example of the trend is Joao Rafael Elias (neutralized Elias Manamana) he scored Rwanda’s goal as they lost to Tunisai-2-1 in the competition opening game.
He was born in Luanda, Angola, before the war he was forced to move to Zaire (DRC) and then eventually to Belgium.
While in Europe, he played for several teams and also met the Amavubi former captain Desire Mbonanbucysa (now retired), who was playing for Saint Truiden during that time.
In his interview sports journalists Martin Davis January 28, 2004, Elias said it was Mbonanbucya who suggested the switch of nations and Elias was then approached by top Ferwafa officials.
He agreed the swap, was soon naturalized as a Rwandan and made his debut for his adopted nation in a Cup of Nation qualifier against Uganda in June that year.
Just like the others, in spite of getting both an Angolan and Rwandan passport, Elias admitted to Davis that he didn’t know any of the local Kinyarwanda language. The public in Rwanda took to their hearts and when they baptized him by the nickname ‘Imana y Imana’ God of God
Despite now having both an Angolan and Rwandan passport, Elias admited he didn’t know any of the local Kinyarwanda language. Elias is not the only player to have switched names.
Last week, local news paper in Kigali listed a number of football players who have switched names from countries like Uganda and DRC.
Among them is Bokota Labama who came from Vita Club (DRC) and made a stint in Rayon Sport and APR , he was baptized as Kamana Bokota to feature for Amavubi. Manfred Kizito from Uganda played for Rwanda and APR before retiring and his brother featured in Uganda Cranes.
Just like Bokota and others like Abouba Sibomana, Sena Abedi Jerome. (Sina Jerome), Mbuyu Twite (Gasana Eric), Sejuuko Saifi Farouk (Ruhinda Farouk)-U17 Mexican team to mention but a few.
Changing nationality is not the issue but the identity is what matters. To some of these players, it they sometimes endure mixed emotions.
For instance during the 2004 match against DR Congo, there is one player who had mixed emotions when Rwanda was going to face DR Congo in Tunisia. Amavubi former Keeper Ramadhani Nkunzingoma born and brought up in the DR Congo but later played for APR.
In his interview with Davis in 2004, before playing DR Congo in the 2004 group fixtures in Tunisia, he admitted that he was unsure how he will feel when the national anthems are played.
“I have no idea how I will feel, I don’t know what to say,” Nkunzingoma admitted.
“But in my head I still feel Congolese.”
On the other hand, being a neighbor to Rwanda, such players encounter difficulties from their countries of origin, yet their foreign influx has assisted on the continental level.
For instance Congo is vast, wealthy, politically unstable and extremely big for players travel to the better cities like the capital Kinshasa where they can have the opportunity to show their talent or feature in the national team other than joining rebel forces as child soldiers, they turn to neighbors like Rwanda.
This vast country has hardly any roads or railways, despite having a pool of young football talent to turn to Kigali where they are given the opportunity to exhale in football and other sports disciplines like basketball and volleyball.
Even when issued with a different nationality, today the issue of traveling continues to be a catch-22. For players like Said Abedi Makasi who played for clubs like Express, Villa (Uganda), APR, Espoir, then later Amavubi and in Europe.
The intricacies persist, in his interview; Makasi says “Even after being issued with a Rwandan nationality, he still has to pay for an entry visa to Rwanda where he has recently signed a two year extension with local club Espoir.
The issue of Rwanda mercenaries has so offer led to CAF to take drastic measures but since Rwanda has appealed against the decision, let us wait to see the country will be rein instated for the 2015 Morocco qualifiers.
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