Are Sports Journalists doing enough?

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The sports season is back for many, here i’m speaking for the majority of the football fans, with the return of the European football leagues and champions league football, the opening weekend of our national league went without notice to majority of these fans, which left me pondering and asking;

Why is less attention given to our local sports disciplines?

Over the year’s (two and a half) that i’ve reported on sports. I’ve come to notice a growing and disturbing trend in the neglect in reporting our own issues.

Mid this year a sports editor and a friend of mine Hamza Nkutu wrote an opinion article where he highlighted the issue.

I for one would not agree more on many of the issues raised but having worked in all forms of media in Rwanda, i again had to ask myself what i and some of my colleagues have done to help the state of sports improve in the country. What is our contribution as journalists to the growth of sports in Rwanda?

For one we have the ability to more or less guide (i hate to use the word influence) our readers/listeners make decisions depending on what we put in front of them, air out to them or even show them, but do we even know this?

More often than not, when one tunes in to any of the leading sports shows in the country the amount of time given to critical coverage of our own sports is far less than that given to what we call international sports activities. And even when we do so, it’s usually predictable, a bit of the national football league here, volleyball there, cycling here, a bit of basketball at times and once in a while the paralympic heroics of Cliff Muvunyi.

But why is this so?There are many factors that this can be attributed to but my major concern is one that I have personally fallen victim to and it tends to  be the face of so many media houses in the country,LAZINESS.

A few years back as i started out on radio, i was lucky (i don’t believe in luck) enough to be part of a great cast of sports presenters at arguably the most listened to sports show in the country. The main hosts of this show enjoy popstar status in the going by the number of fans that line up for a handshake or photo opportunity when they get the chance to. So i saw this as a great opportunity to learn from these two legendary gentlemen. I as a a person starting out wanted to know how they gather their news, what they base on to analyse situations, come up with suggestions and call for certain reforms within different sports organisations that would be unlucky to be on the wrong side of their thoughts.

But disappointing is one word i’ve come to often use when asked about the state of sports journalism in Rwanda. I spend most of my weekends even weekday evenings at either a court, stadium, oval or pitch depending on what’s on my sports must watch line up for the weekend or evening and that’s where this displeasure started to come into play.

Growing up as a child i emulated the likes of Pedro Pinto, Carol Tshabalala, Thomas Mlambo, Mark Ssali , Don Ridell, i could go on and on but i didn’t know the secret to what made them stand out. Just like the popstar presenters in Rwanda, my idols could and can still give you a 360 degree of sports coverage but one thing surely stands out from what they did/ do that my popstar journalist friends currently ignore.

The likes of Pedro Pinto and Tshabalala’s of this world are the kind of journalists that t you are going to find watching every sports event, critically putting down notes and taking their time to understand the discipline, in contrast our own popstar friends will rarely be seen at a sports event, thus depending on third hand information which they tend to air out to the unsceptical idol worshipping fans.

More often than note i’ve seen my colleagues in the industry make suggestions based on hear say (having not been at the games) and this is what the masses receive as information. The inability for a journalist to go out to the field and collect information treads to them having less content to give their readers/ listeners or viewers, thus filling the void by sticking to reading the foreign press material in their mediums. if that is not plain laziness then I’m sorry for expecting too much.

Match Day 1 of Azam Premier League

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The opening day of the 2015/2016 Azam premier league went by with no major buzz from fans for what is starting to look like a drop in interest in local football.

The very low turn ups for Amavubi fixtures should have been a warning sign for what is starting to become a fans disinterest in Rwandan football, another aspect where FERWAFA should go back to the drawing board, but do they care?

What many predict might be the closest national league championship kicked off over the weekend with business as usual for the traditional giants hitherto AS Kigali.

Defending champions APR looked fragile in their one goal victory over Enticelles but that shouldn’t have been a surprise going by their current coaching woes.

Isae Songa seems to be the inform striker as he continued with his pre-season form to score on his league debut for Police F.C in their win over Mukura. National team coach Mckinstry should be impressed.

One person that should be worried with his form is Songa’s rival for the Amavubi berth, Ernest Sugira who once again failed to find the back of the net in AS Kigali’s goaless draw at home against Rwamagana F.C. Though not yet worrying times for Eric Nshyimiyimana’s men.

Rayon Sports are set to prove many doubters wrong going by their impressive victory away to Marines. The tie was expected to present a stunning test to the blues but the side seemed to differ putting up their best performance in the past six months for a comfortable two nil win. Is it too early to think of a return to glory days for the Nyanza outfit?

The 2015/16 Azam Premier league contenders and pretenders

The new national league should be the closest and most competitive we have had in a while and who knows, maybe just this time the APR, Rayon Sports duopoly might come to an end.

At least just before the opening weekend the signs seem to say so as the army side seem to be holed in a very unusual coaching crisis but that shouldn’t come as a surprise for one who has been following the club’s events.

The defending champions alongside Police F.C, AS Kigali and Rayon Sports F.C should give us a very unpredictable league season and oh boy doesn’t the sport need it.

I take a look at the four sides expected to contend for the title and what we should expect from each in the 2015/2016 Azam Premier league.

APR F.C

Strength:
They are the defending champions and by virtual of being defending champions one would expect the record winners to once again successfully defend their title.
The army side continue to attract and poach the best players in the country thus boosting an almost unrivalled squad depth.

Transfer policy:
The club bought early and replaced the key losses with the best available talent. Faustin Usengimana and Djihad Bizimana are not Emery Bayisenge or Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza but the pair can equally get the job done.

Weakness:
Uncertainty in the coaching department seems to be gripping into one of the most organised teams in the country. Croatian tactician Dule Suljagic who took over reigns midway last season unceremoniously left the club with a few days to their opener.
Assistant Vincent Mashami (good enough to take over) has commited himself to the Amavubi and can only be in charge of their opening day fixture.

PREDICTION: 2nd

AS Kigali

Strength:
Eric Nshimiyimana,the tactician led the city of Kigali funded side to their highest league position in the last campaign and will be a force to reckon with as his attention to detail is second to none.

Transfer Policy:
With not enough deep pockets, AS Kigali don’t have a lot of new faces in their squad and that should work to the advantage of the team especially regarding chemistry.

Weakness:
Despite making a couple of new signings, the squad looks like an injury away from a crisis with the coach still juggling his goalkeeping department.

PREDICTION : 4th

RAYON SPORTS F.C

Strength:
They are easily the most supported club in the league and that should at least motivate the players to give their all when putting on the blues kit.

Transfer Policy:
Unfortunately for the fans, the club’s administrative troubles and poor management have seen them continue to sell their best players. The club have gone through a squad overhaul with not less than 10 new signings including the arrival of Frenchman David Donadei as their new coach.

Weakness:
The club’s lack of organisation structures clearly translates down to poor results on the pitch. They tend to live above their means which has seen them plunged into debt and there are no signs of continuity from the Nyanza based outfit. 6 coaches in 2 years says it all.

PREDICTION :3rd

POLICE F.C

Strength:
Police seem to have put the monkey off their back after winning their first silverware with victory in the peace cup. Coach Andre Cassa Mbungo is the best in the business and he has slowly steadied proceedings at the club.
After a season that looked like a rebuilding phase, the team seemed to get into their stride towards the end of the last campaign picking up the Peace cup in the process.
With a strong pre-season to show for it, the law enforcers seem ready to match APR regarding squad depth and the early season stability should set them on their way to their first league glory.

Transfer Policy:
14 new players will be seen as a wholesale change but that is set to increase depth especially in the striking department with the purchase of twins Isae Songa and Isaac Muganza.

PREDICTION: 1 (Champions)

Rwanda vs Ghana, could we have done better?

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Many had it billed as the battle of David vs Goliath, Rwanda ranked 78 up against a team 51 spots above us and regarded by many as the best African team currently on paper.

Will talk about the state of the pitch on another day.

On talking to a few colleagues before the game, I was left shocked, in fact bewildered by how many thought our own Wasps were headed for a drubbing at the hands of a team entirely based of players plying their trade in elite leagues.

I wondered if we all looked at the football statistics the same way. Not taking anything away from the performance of Amavubi on the day, I for one expected victory or at worst a draw.

The mere fact that many left satisfied with Rwanda’s performance on the day was a sign to how we have allowed mediocrity to creep into our football souls.

Looking at the African football statistics over the past 8 qualifying campaigns, a 12 percent away win record stands for teams on the continent making Africa second to South America as the continents where it is almost impossible to lose a home match. Taste home defeat in Venezuela and the coach would have no seat on the team bus, but get me right i’m not one to call for Mckinstry’s scalp, at least not yet.

For the Irishman has set a target of 12 points for this AFCON 2017 campaign and looking at the fixture list, two home wins against Mozambique and Mauritius + an away win in Mauritius should do the job, easier said than done.

African football tends to pay no respect to what many of my colleagues and i call elite players because of their club status, it’s for this reason that squads largely made of home based players have gone on to not only shock the so called heavyweights (teams made of foreign based players) but have even gone on to lift the continental prize.

Apart from the Cameroon squads 2000, 2002, Nigeria 2013 and Ivory Coast 2015 the rest of the tournaments have gone on to be won by squads made largely of the David’s (home based players) of this football world.

So could we have done better on Saturday? I think so. Were the Black Stars deserved winners? I think so. But one thing we should not accept as football and sports lovers in Rwanda is mediocrity.

How I wish the Bible story in the book of 1Samuel 17 could have come into fruition, only then I could gladly have loved to embrace the David tag.

Newton, Nzamwita and Ferwafa

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“For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction, ” Newton’s third law of motion. One of those physics classes I enjoyed in my f.2 at St.Mary’s College Kisubi thanks to a one Mr. Kabale.

Through out my young years so far, by the way i’m getting older this month, I’ve come to learn that the rule of law tends to justify Isaac Newton’s theory especially in my almost corrupt free nation Rwanda.

But over the past years in my following up on matters in the football federation, as the country seems to be making progressive steps in almost all sectors sports and football in particular seem to take a back step(but that is a story for another day.)

The football federation (FERWAFA) continues to justify their seemingly arrogant, bullish actions and so far they seem to be above the law.

Recently the federation President Nzamwita announced the expected expenditure of the money coming in from the broadcast rights deal with Tanzania pay channel Azam Tv.

A 40:40:20 split was to be followed in the splitting of the money between Ferwafa, division 1 clubs and division 2 teams respectively.

One would usually turn a blind eye if they thought the figures involved are minimal but on second look how does the football body justify 634 million francs set to be allocated to the body.

Well here is how?

In a press conference last week, Nzamwita was quick to note that the money was to be split on players insurance and referees salaries.

1. Now how is the federation responsible for club players insurance welfare? Aren’t clubs registered as independent bodies? What will happen to the money allocated to them?

2. Unless our referees are to become the most paid on the continent, Ferwafa can’t justify the less than 30 officials being given 634 million to share among themselves, unless well…

If this isn’t blatantly taking the sports stakeholders for a ride then it’s a slap to the system by Nzamwita and co. that they can do as they please and no one can do a thing about it.

So I’m guessing i’ve been wrong all along about Newton’s third law of motion.

Who is FERWAFA fooling?

The weekend of the 4th of July is usually one that every Rwandan looks forward to, for it is not only a reminder of the great struggle that got this nation liberated, it’s also looked at as a turning point for Rwanda’s direction.

As we celebrated 21 years of being liberated, thousands of Rwandans thronged the national stadium for the final of this year’s Peace cup football tournament, a tournament that in every aspect had been called a success by the current football administration and as one who gives credit where it’s due the 2015 peace cup was a step in the right direction (football pitch) for the Rwanda football fraternity but it’s aftermath seems to blanket all these positives.

In the week leading up to the Peace cup final, the Federation of Rwanda football association (FERWAFA) President Vincent Nzamwita decided (i use decided because the needed stakeholders were not consulted) that revenue from the final day’s gate collections would be shared on a 20/20/20/20/10/10 format. Meaning that the four teams playing on the day will share 80% of the day’s earnings while FERWAFA and the ministry of Sports and culture will share the remaining 20% equally.

Well, let me not dwell on the issue that the needed stakeholders were not consulted which in itself shows the reason for so many wrongs in the way footballand sport in general are run in this country but i want to point out the scam, theft regarding the declared earnings from the day.

As i’m writing this post, the federation had told the football clubs that they each will receive rwf 3.5 million as their 20 percent share from the day, 3.5!!!

It does not need one to be a qualified mathematician to notice that if each club was to be receive frw 3.5 million that will equate to a meare frw 14 million thus further stating that 14 million is 80 percent of the total gate collection thus implying that the total revenue from the day’s ticket sales was only FRW 17.5 million? NHAAA??

For anyone reading this, 17.5 million might look like much but the numbers don’t add up and as a student of economics this is why…

On the day of the finals, tickets were being sold for 1000, 3000, 5000 and 10000 for the VIP section. With majority of those in the VIP section having been invited by the federation and the ministry hardly any tickets were sold for that section so we are going to ignore that bit.

The Amahoro stadium sit’s 30,000 people and let’s assume that 10,000 tickets were given out free of charge,lol a whole 10,000. Well we all know that know one can give out 10,000 free tckets more so that the VIP section can only sit 1000 people but then i tend to give people a benefit of doubt.

So that leaves 20,000 tickets having been sold off, for anyone who was at the stadium on Saturday , one could easily have noticed  that angry streams of fans outside the stadium complaining at the lack of tickets as all match tickets had been sold off.

Now back to this 20,000 tickets (very laughable), if i take the lowest ticket cost which was 1000 for every ticket sold to the 20000 people, a total of frw 20 million should have been collected, again you don’t need to be a mathematician.

So how does the federation come up with this 17.5 million figure? Well one would think that maybe some of the amount went towards stadium maintenance or possible advertising for the matches but none of that was done.

When it comes to stadium maintenance, the 10 percent fee paid to the Ministry covers the stadium maintenance charges again leaving the federation with no cost fees.

So why do Nzamwita and co claim that only 17.5 million francs was collected on the day? Or are they telling us that only 17,500 fans were at the stadium? Your guess is as good as mine.

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IN THE SPORTSZONE

 

12th April will be a day to remember for the Anfield faithful. For in my lifetime, which isn’t so long I’ve never heard the Anfield crowd belt out,You Never Walk Alone as they did on Sunday afternoon. A day filled with so much pain as Liverpool fans remembered the lives of the 96 Angels lost in the Hillsborough disaster might, just might have turned into the day when the League title returns to the coffers of the Liverpool trophy cabinet.

Twenty years without a league trophy is a lifetime for a club of Liverpool’s stature, despite recent success on the European scene every Liverpool fan worldwide will tell you they would trade any of those Great European finals for a sneak peak at the Premier league title.

Twice they have come painfully close to lifting the trophy only to self-destruct but one would fill there is more purpose to this Brendan Rodgers led side than the previous two teams. The Irish man not Suarez is the reason Liverpool have a sniff at this year’s trophy, his composure on the touchline, in the press conference and interviews translates onto his players.

How he has turned Mammadou Sakho, a third choice center back at PSG, Glen Johnson and Daniel Sturridge both outcasts at Chelsea into world class players and premier league contenders only buffers the critics.

Not to be drawn into mind games that led to the destruction of his predecessors Gerald Houlier and Rafael Benitez when they had a shot at the title, BR as the players call him is taking one step at a time, always looking at the next game and not talking up his title chances.

Some would argue that his scared of failure, incase Liverpool do not win the title he has an excuse, he never said they would win the Premier League. But would he be wrong? I guess not.

At the beginning of the season not a single “expert” thought the Merseysiders would be in the mix at this time of the season, in fact most suggested Liverpool would struggle to even get into the Champions league, the script had already been written, Suarez was believed to be leaving at season’s end.

But it is such unpredictability that makes football the most interesting game in the world, will Suarez be leaving at season’s end? I don’t think so, will Liverpool be in the champions league? That one is guaranteed or even better they just might be the Premier league champions.

But what happens between now and that Sunday evening in May for once is in Liverpool’s control. Make us Dream.

Return of the Pac

Palm Sunday proved to be such a rewarding day for this devote Catholic man another of my sports teams, yes I have many of those returned to winning ways. The Pacman team is what many call it.

Manny Pacquiao in my eyes is the bravest fighter of this era, yes people I said not Floyyd Mayweather. Unlike Mayweather, Pacquiao does not shy away from a challenge, he does not choose his opponents basing on whom he can easily outclass at the moment but on who is the best at the moment.

Pacquiao does not go on social networks to ask his fans whose the next fighter he can take on, only for him to choose someone else from what his fans want, Pacquiao gives his fans what they want, what they desire, Boxing entertainment.

On Sunday morning in Kigali, Saturday night in Las Vegas, the stage was set The Pacman ready to take on his previously unbeaten challenger, Timothy Bradley. Five years his junior,a hungry fighter still making himself a name in the ring, a perfect moment for Pacquiao to chock. But chock he did not for the Philippine Politician did not only convincingly beat Bradley again (everyone agrees he was cheated in the first contest) but he did it in sublime fashion dominating the contest from start to finish in a style that rolled back the years. A KO was the only ingredient missing on the menu. Come on Mayweather give us the fight that every boxing fan wants to see happen, take on the Philippine.

Augusta double for Watson

It would be befitting of me not to talk about the greatest golf tournament, The Maters. In a sport that is in dire need of a hero, with Tiger Woods injured, many prayed Rory Mclroy would walk away with the green jacket at Augusta Sunday evening but that was not the case, The Irishman could only manage nineth place as he struggled to get into the top ten. With no Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Else the stage was set for another Irish man to affirm his stature as the golf’s new emblem but boy did he chock but wait not all is dead for golf in comes 20 year old Jordan Spieth.

 

 

SPURS THE BETTER TEAM,HEAT HAVE THE BIG THREE.

After a disappointing run in the play offs last season so many people wrote off the San Antonio Spurs as serious title contenders as  most of the players in the team are in the evening of their careers,their would be leaders Tim Duncan,Tracy Mcgrady,Argetine Manuel Ginobili and French guard Tony Parker are all well into their thirties. With such worries for legendary coach Poppovic on the coast of Miami the BIG three as they are famously known(Lebron,Wade,Bosh) in their second season together got their first rings taking the title back to the American Airlines arena for the first time since a Wade inspired heat last won it in 2006.

At the beginning of the season many expected the Heat to be in the finals but not a single soul unless you are a Spurs die hard would have expected San Antonio to be the other team and easily get their as seen with their white wash of the best defensive team in the league,the Grizzlies. On the other hand the red hot favourites struggled to dispatch a stubborn Indiana team that gave them a more than good run for their money.

Fast forward four games into this WHITE HOT series its’s all two games a piece with both teams winning on the road,the shocker being Spurs win in Miami on day one,many blamed it on the fatigue of the Heat who had just had a hell of a game against Pacers as Spurs had a five day rest after their white wash of Marc Gasol‘s team,few were quick to point out the effect of their defence that limited Lebron below average points,”The King,” as Miami fans call him seemed not to have support from his team mates,any Miami fan should be worried that as long as LBJ is shooting below average the heat loose 95% of those games,siting too much dependance on him in fact some pundits were quick to point out that at some stages in this years play offs Miami’s dependance on James brought back memories of his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers…yes it was that bad.

Is Heat too dependant on Lebron? Well looking at the statistics Miami’s starters average 68.2 points,with Lebron contributing an average of 25.1 points far behind is Wade with 15.7 points thus the King contributes 37% of the Heat’s points. In contrast Spurs’ starters average 69.2 points,where there scores leader Parker contributes at a rate of 20.9 which translates into a mere 29% of all spurs points,one will quickly notice that on days like in game three when Parker and Duncan were off song other players in Green and Neal stepped up to the occasion thus showing the strength of the Spurs team,credit goes out to coach Pop for creating a system that allows his aging team to get contributions from everyone in the locker room at the same time keeping Miami at bay.

Easy to note that when Miami’s big three play the way they did last night(James 33 points,Wade 32 points and Bosh 20 points) the Heat is unstopable but will they be able to keep up such momentum going into the  final best of three games? Easier said than done,where Spurs can call up bench players like Ginobili,Splitter and Bonner,the heat have only Allen contributing above 10 points per game from the bench. Is this a championship team play?your guess is as good as mine_____hell no. With a possible game 7 looming,Miami need the big three to get some sort of form consistency if they are to defend their title. A rearity for them in this play off season.

Do Spurs have the team to win this championship?_____Yes they do but first they should learn to stop Miami”s big three or hope last night’s Wade and Bosh show was just a good day.

 

 

The Greatest Generation of Tennis.

Is this the greatest Tennis generation ever?Led by Roger Federer.Do Rafael Nadal,Novak Djokovic and the usual bridesmaid Andy Murray make up the greatest Tennis quartet ever to play the game?

Watching Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the just concluded French Open one ceased not to be amused by the level of skill,determination portrayed by the two players.It’s no surprise that the winner of this match went on to lift the title. In fact since the 2004 season only three other players have won a grand slam title. Juan Martin del Potro(2009 us open),Marat Safin(2005 Australian open) and Gaston Gaudio(2004 French open) that’s in an astonishing 38 grand slams tournaments.Roger Federer with the lions share,with Nadal,Djokovic,Murray following with (16,12,5 and 1) slams in that order..

one would b quick to argue Murray’s mention in this same league but i will quickly note that Britain’s number one has given us some of the greatest games to ever grace this game against the mentioned class only to be outdone by bad luck so many times thus winning himself the bridesmaid title. But with his rescent perfomances the gold medal at the olympics and the U.S Open title he has slowly brushed away the follower’s tag.

Federer now in the evening of his career is the most smooth,sublime player to grace the court,his smooth back hand and smart finesse play makes you fall in love with the racket and ball game when you see him play.A true King of the court. One more slam for the great swiss is all we ask from hi before saying good bye to probably the greatest player in the open era.

Rafael Nadal; his eight French open grand slam wins a more than testament to probably the greatest player on clay,buffled by injuries in the past few years,the spaniard’s power and wit is unmatched and has always been the thorn to Federer’s dominance. Had it not been for his nagging injuries that one would argue were to come due to his style of play,Nadal would be a head of Raf in the title standings but well oh well he still has time.

Novak Djokovic;a complete mixture of Rafa and Federer,the Serb and current world number one has blended it all..From being a,”near man” three years back to dominating the circuit in the past three years with a winning percentage of 95% Djokovic combines his power with skill and sublime plays.

Andy Murray;the bridesmaid of the team many would say.the Scot has added being aggressive to his game a thing he was being criticised for a lot in the past,brushing off the title with his maiden wins at the u.s open and the olympics one hopes his injury set back is not a full stop to the great climb the Brit was enjoying.

Ladies and Gentlemen is this the greatest tennis generation? I think so.