Ideas, Stories, and Profiles

In the last weekend of July, a new wave of hype in the local football scene led me, in part, to the stadium in Nyamirambo. It was a Saturday afternoon, and Gasogi United Football Club played against Heroes Football Club — a few minutes after Étoile de l’Est F.C. had beaten three-null Sorwathé F.C. The latter were competing for the third position in the national second division, while the former competed for the first position and, effectively, the trophy of the Championship — both having qualified for the promotion to the first division championship.

Gasogi United, which has only existed for less than four years, could be leading a new face of optimism for Rwandan football. The club has emerged as a force of thrill which particularly results from singer-artist-turned-media-personality Kakooza Nkuliza Charles (KNC)’s investments and eventual public relation campaigns through his popular media platforms, TV1 and Radio 1.

KNC himself is a fascinating character. His story is rather filled with intense passion than actual successes as advertised — apart from, perhaps, his current establishment — and that very fact has made him quite a name. For a person who has tried multiple ventures (including in the acting, advertising, and music sectors) his understanding of local dynamics has broadened. And this has been instrumental to the rise of the club considering his grip on the challenges. The combination of his creative and advertising skills, his media venture, and his passion, among others, make him a perfect club president at this point. So, the dream of Gasogi United can live through his genius even if confronted with tough limits (the local football scene is at one of its lowest and fans remain pessimistic).

At the final game at the stadium, FERWAFA, the Rwandan football federation, was in charge. Their sense of organisation did not disappoint. (And I suppose it's always put to test.) Two to three, if not four — or perhaps more — young ladies ushered guests in the V.I.P. section. As the game went on, a dozen of men gathered on the sideline to organise a trophy podium; that was minutes after one of the youngsters doing the protocol placed the trophy on a small, tall stand branded with the Championship’s graphics. The president of the Federation, Mr. Jean Damascene Sekamana, was present. And KNC sat next to him.

Although Gasogi United won the match, Heroes dominated throughout, having scored the first goal early on. Gasogi United equalised by an otherwise controversial penalty, survived many attempts by the contender, and made it to the final penalty session which eventually turned out to offer more luck. On the pitch, the team looked less physically strong but it was clear the players bore more strength of optimism, thanks to KNC's spirit to nurture talent.

In recent years, Rwandan football has disappointed fans, if not the country at large. But the poor performance results, mainly, from poor governance of teams and the lack of long-term investment in human capacity.

KNC's vibrant enthusiasm and ability to pull so many strings together, coupled with possible leadership qualities, is what many local sports associations need to rally more support for, grow, and register progress. At least at this moment, there is no doubt that what Gasogi United represents is a promising team. I am one of those who are watching.

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