A few months back when the national team lost to Ghana by a solitary goal at the Amahoro stadium, many were quick to praise the performance of the wasps. I in contrast thought they should have done better Rwanda vs Ghana, could we have done better? And believe me to some I looked naive and unpatriotic. To them I was seeing the glass as half empty and not half full, “how could I have dared to say that Rwanda should have won that game? How could I expect our squad made of largely home based players to beat Africa’s highest ranked team at that time? They asked.” My answer, we were at home. As a home team you just can’t afford to lose.
In Africa over the past eight qualifying campaigns both AFCON and World Cup only twelve (12%) percent of the fixtures have been won by teams away from home, in fact it’s almost unheard of for the home team to lose a match in the West or Northern parts of the continent. And Going by the fixtures played over the just ended qualifying legs only 8 teams out of 50 games played won away from home.
Fast forward to Rwanda’s AFCON2017 campaign, Coach Johnny McKinstry set a target of 12 points for Rwanda to qualify for the continental show piece. A target I found achievable, 3 home wins and 1 away looked like a possibility. With victory on the opening day of the campaigns away to Mozambique, I was certain that the Irishman was going to meet his target. Four games into the campaign Rwanda and we are four points behind leaders Ghana; those 12 points now look out of reach.
Surprisingly, I’m not here to condemn McKinstry for our home loss but rather defend the performance of the team on the away loss to Mauritius over the weekend, ironic right? After Amavubi’s drubbing of the islanders yesterday, many colleagues were quick to question his squad selection and tactics for the first leg of the fixture. Some even went as far as suggesting match fixing (an emotional reaction if you ask me). Some justified their reason on his dropping of players for the fixture as having undermined the opponents, laughable if you know the competitive edge of the man.
Yes, maybe he should have started Ernest Sugira but for an away tie the lanky forward brings a weakness you don’t want to play with, he doesn’t track back. With a safety first approach on any team’s travels one could understand why the Irishman chose to go with the day’s match day squad.
It’s one thing playing in front of a packed Amahoro, it’s a different atmosphere at the Belle Vue stadium in Mauritius. Nothing is guaranteed in football and it’s a defying the odds situation if you get that away win. Algeria walked over Ethiopia (7-1) in the first leg in Algiers but the same team needed a last minute penalty to draw against the same opponents two days later in Addis Ababa, what changed in the 48 hrs? Home ground advantage. So let us not crucify the team for their performance in Port Louis but rather look at keeping Amahoro stadium, the fortress it has become.