Cash constraints at Rayon frustrate Ntagwabira
Jean Marie Ntagwabira is usually bullish ahead of a major tournament but the Rayon Sport head coach was in downbeat mood last week. Despite a highly-billed MTN Peace Cup quarter-final contest between the blues and SC Kiyovu round the corner, he appeared preoccupied by the continuing financial problems at the club.
Rayon’s overall annual Frw 150m budget does not allow Ntagwabira to contentedly bolster his squad. However, when asked whether he was happy with the level of financial backing given to him by the club, the coach would not take the bait, choosing to mask his misery in a cloak of collectivity.
“I don’t know too many coaches happy with the money that they have to spend,” he said. “There are one or two clubs that have big, big money, but the rest of the coaches I am sure will ask for more money. It is not impacting on my commitment.”
“We are trying to progress,” Ntagwabira continued. “How do we progress? We have brought in players, and people might say ‘ah yes, but you’ve lost this player and this player.’ But we’ll only really know when we start playing. If these new players are really good on the pitch then people will say we are going in the right direction. We were doing a lot of contract extensions because we wanted to keep the squad together.”
It is the last line that is the most telling because while Ntagwabira was handed a budget in the region of Frw 30 million plus whatever he recouped from sales to spend last season, there was also an understanding that the cost of any significant contract extensions would also come from this pot. Ntagwabira duly signed the likes of Amissi Cedric, Hussein Mbanza, Fuadi Ndayisenga, Bokota Labama Saidi Abedi Makasi and Hamad Ndikumana ‘Katauti’ on a short-term deal.
Over the years, the club’s stringent budget has come back to haunt them. Last season, Burundian star players Seleman Ndikumana and Papy Faty snubbed the blues in favor of APR after the former could not afford a combined Frw 40m in transfer fees and wages.
Despite having the biggest fan base in the country, Rayon has gone seven seasons without a trophy. Their last silverware came back in 2005 when they won the Amahoro Cup (currently referred to as the MTN Peace Cup). In 2004, they edged APR to win their sixth national league title with Raoul Shungu at the helm. Abed Mulenda was the club’s star player that season after topping the scoring charts with 14 goals.
Taking the bus
Last week, there was a welcome relief at the club following reports that Kigali Bus Services (KBS) would supplement the club’s budget. KBS is owned by Rayon chairman Charles Ngarambe, who said that sponsorship will depend on the company’s fortunes. “We urge club fans to ride with KBS because our support will depend on our returns at the end of the month.”
At the same time, it was also announced that Rayon would set up an investment company, in the hope that this more business-like approach to managing a football club would make it easier to get other entrepreneurs on board.
For the chairman of the Rayon Sports fan club, Jean Claude Muhawenimana, this is a move in the right direction.
“In the last few years, we have come very close to signing lucrative deals with the likes of MTN, Tigo and Soras and somehow things have not worked out so we hope this is a fresh start and one that the club is going to build on,” a very expectant Muhawenimana told Focus Sports.
And the club certainly owes the fans something, because during the just ended league, there were times when the Rayon players walked into games without any training – players just sat out training sessions to protest against delayed payments. Some, including Amavubi international Jerome Sina, even went AWOL (away without official leave) in search for greener pastures.
On certain occasions, Ntagwabira, who still has one year on his contract, has put his future in doubt, but Rayon’s secretary general Olivier Gakwaya insists that he is at the club for the long haul.
“He is one of the best coaches in the country and we are prepared to do anything to keep him at the club,” the official said. “Our short-term target is to build a strong side capable of not only winning the league and staying at the top but also doing well on the continental stage.”
Ntagwabira is one of the most accomplished coaches in Rwanda after winning the league with APR and Atraco and is looking to rewrite more history by becoming the first coach to win the title with three different clubs.
RAYON SPORTS HONORS
Six league titles: 1975, 1981, 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2004.
Eight Rwanda Cups (Peace Cups): 1976, 1979, 1982, 1989, 1993, 1995, 1998, and 2005
Cecafa Cup: 1998 (Zanzibar)
Caf Champions League: 5 appearances
- 1998-Knocked out in first round
- 1999-Knocked out in second round
- 2001-Knocked out at the preliminary round
- 2003-Knocked out in the first round
- 2005-Knocked out in the preliminary round
CAF Confederation Cup: 2 appearances
- 2006: Knocked out in the first round
- 2008: Knocked out in the second round