By James Kabaka
On 13 June 2020, the ministry of sports announced that it was mulling a new plan of transforming Isonga football academy into 30 centers of excellence across the country where each district will enroll schools in the program.
Guy Rurangayire, the acting Director of Sports at the Ministry of Sports, declared that the program will be available in all the 30 districts of the country as opposed to the repealed Isonga academy that was only based in Kigali and expand from being a football only academy to a combination of different sports disciplines, including football, basketball, cycling, volleyball, and others.
“Previously we used to take only about 30 young players, now we have changed the way it is done. We want to have a center of excellence in each district. Here, we will provide good coaches and equipment for the young talents to be nurtured,” he said.
Over the past ten years the ministry of sports has put a lot of efforts in identifying and nurturing sports talent within the country. Isonga was founded in 2011 to retain players who played the under 17 FIFA World Cup finals in Mexico. Since then, it has participated in FERWAFA competitions for six years. In the 2017 season, Isonga was promoted to the first division but it eventually withdrew itself from the competitions in order to keep focus on nurturing young talented players.
Since 2018, Arsenal has trained over 50 young footballers and coaches as part of the existing Rwanda-Arsenal Team partnership and in 2019 Rwanda entered a three-year partnership, this time with Paris Saint Germain, with talent development among the key priorities.
This new model of sports partnership will be implemented around three cornerstones: cultural and artistic synergies, a shared commitment to excellence and football development, according to FERWAFA.
Alongside football, cycling and basketball are other popular sports in Rwanda. In 2014, the Africa Rising Cycling Center (ARCC) was launched in Musanze district to help the development of young riders in Rwanda. Since then, the center has supported Rwanda’s ambition to become a hub for African cycling growth.
Furthermore, in February this year, President Paul Kagame and Masai Ujiri, Founder of Giants of Africa and President of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, announced the inaugural Giants of Africa Festival in Rwanda, a camp that will bring together 200 youth from 11 African countries, with young Rwandan basketball players and coaches expected to benefit from it.
The country’s sports development policy has the mission to pursue the attainment of sports culture that promotes health lifestyle for Rwandans and ensures a winning culture for those undertaking professional sports in different sport disciplines. To achieve this, the ministry has established a system of collaboration with different stakeholders to help it in talent detection.