Rwanda's soccer championship, which kicks off on August 18, is attracting an increasing number of foreign players. Most of them come from Burundi, Rwanda's neighboring country. Other players from West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are also coming in large numbers. This season, football fans will be hoping to see a quality championship.
Rwanda's championship is increasingly attractive
Sixteen teams are taking part in Rwanda's soccer championship, known as the Rwanda Premier League from this 2023-2024 season. Since 2012, military outfit APR FC has been made up entirely of local players, but this has not prevented it from winning eight out of ten titles. In fact, this performance prompted the military team to jealously guard its policy until the end of the 2022-2023 edition.
From this season onwards, however, APR FC has decided to change the game in Rwanda. The motive, according to Lieutenant-General Mubalaka Muganga, the team's former president, is to take international competitions to the next level. "We dominated the Rwandan championship for several years, using only Rwandan players. There's no problem there. But to be competitive at international level, we need other players of international calibre. We're going to recruit players capable of helping us take our game to the next level," he said. APR and Rayon Sport aim for group stage in CAF competitions. These two teams, who will represent Rwanda in CAF inter-club competitions, have strengthened their squads by recruiting experienced players, most of them internationals. They have invested heavily in attracting these players in order to achieve their objectives.
APR FC's squad includes internationals such as Congo Brazzaville goalkeeper Pavelh Ndzila and Burundian Nshimirimana Ismael. Nigerian Victor Mbaoma, Sudanese Shaiboub Ali and Cameroonian Bemol Apam have all arrived in Rwanda.Rayon Sport have also recruited players with good CVs. These include Burundian international Aruna Mussa Madjaliwa, Congolese Luvumbu Héritier Nzinga, Ugandans Charles Bbale and Ojera, and Moroccan Youssefu Rharb.
Other teams are not to be outdone. Clubs such as Kiyovu Sport, Mukura Victory Sport and Police FC have also recruited a number of top-class foreign players. Local Burundian players who play in a less lucrative league than Rwanda's have also benefited. For example, some twenty players have left their home league to try their luck in neighbouring Rwanda.
Currently, teams are allowed to field six foreign players during a match, but they can have more in their squad. The fact that financially strong RPA and Police teams are now recruiting foreigners, unlike in later years, has significantly increased the number of foreigners. Thanks to these teams, and of course many others capable of paying monthly salaries of over 2,000 euros, the Rwandan championship has become more attractive.Some people believe that limiting the number of foreigners in the championship is not a good thing for the development of Rwandan soccer. They point out that the higher the level of competition, the better it is for the national team.Others, on the other hand, say that foreigners should be limited in order to give locals a chance.
League open to discussions
Hadji Mudaheranwa, President of the Rwanda Football League, told a press conference on Friday August 11 that their aim was to offer their partners a quality championship. To achieve this, he indicated that discussions are underway with club presidents to see whether to continue limiting foreigners or to play without limiting anyone. This idea has been well received by club presidents, most of whom are in favor of a championship open to everyone, where the best players meet on the pitch regardless of their origin.