How Rayon Sport won the league title
After nine agonizing years of not winning a trophy, Rayon Sport have become Primus League champions after a second season half that saw them drop just four points in thirteen games.
The Blues were the dominant force in national football before 1994 and continued to enjoy relative success afterwards until they were dethroned in 2004 by APR as the country’s strongest team.
Formed in 1968 in Nyanza town, Rayon Sport has won six league trophies, eight Peace cups, one Cecafa trophy and represented Rwanda in 12 continental tournaments. That record however pales in comparison to their main rivals APR, which in only the past two decades has won 13 league trophies, 7 peace cups, 3 Cecafa triumphs and has represented Rwanda 17 times on the continent.
Rayon Chairman Murenzi Abdallah however is confident that winning the league again after such a long time will spur the club to greater heights, yet at the same time he admits they can borrow a leaf from the army side.
“Many people attribute APR’s dominance to their financial clout but I believe there is more to it. APR has been more organised, with good administration structures that have helped shape the club into a winning side,” Murenzi says, adding that his club will follow the same blueprint.
That might seem too much modesty, because obviously their league victory this year shows that Rayon has over the past years made serious efforts to improve its game.
Last year, after 26 years in Kigali, the club decided to return to their roots in Nyanza in a deal with the district. Nyanza FC disbanded their club and agreed to inject Frw 44m every season. As a result, the Blues who had always struggled to pay players’ salaries on time, were now in good financial health and there has been no mention ever since of players striking over delayed salaries.
The situation has improved to such a degree that sources tell this paper that today Rayon actually pays better than powerhouse APR.
Bonuses for wins, for example, which had almost become the stuff of dreams for the players, were once again paid in time.
Whether true or not, the healthy finances put Rayon Sport’s management in a strong position to convince players to stay with the club and accept to be based in Nyanza, even though this meant that several of them had to leave their young families behind in the capital and move southwards where they live together with the coaching staff.
This not only improved the harmony within the group but also meant that the players had much less occasion to live the good life – staying late in night clubs, drinking and sleeping with countless girls.
An insider in the club says the players are responsibly planning for their futures, saving money and trying to invest.
Players put in place
That improved attitude can without doubt for a big part be attributed to coach Didier Gomez da Rosa. The Frenchman had tried unsuccessfully to land coaching roles with AS Kigali and Mukura, until Rayon gave him a six-month trial to return back the club to its winning form.
Gomez did not only concentrate on making the Blues a better team but also enforced discipline among the players, whose bad behavior had polluted the club for a long time. It was not usual for them to sneak out of the country without club permission, apparently thinking they were bigger than the club.
The new coach quickly put a halt to that by putting the players firmly back in their place. Burundian international Karim McKenzie for instance was stripped of the captaincy because of failing to return on time after an international engagement.
In return, the club’s management made sure the players were well treated. Bonuses for wins, for example, which had almost become the stuff of dreams for the players, were once again paid in time. What is more, they were doubled to Frw 50,000 and paid the day after a victory.
Rayon also gave the team Frw 50,000 for every goal, resulting in a handsome Frw 300,000 extra after their recent 6-1 thrashing of Muhanga.
Needless to say, such policies gave a major boost to the team’s zeal and competiveness.
Rayon’s adversaries, on the other hand, started the season rather weakened after they lost star players. APR and Police last season decided to use only locals in their teams, which meant releasing all their big foreign players, some of whom joined the Blues.
It is now up to Rayon Sport to prove that this league title was not just a lucky strike, but that they are back at the top to stay.