The 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) began this Saturday, January 2018. Initiated by the Confederation of the African Football (CAF) in 2009, for African national footballers playing in domestic leagues, CHAN will be played for the fifth edition, hosted by Morocco from January 13 to February 4, 2018.
The Rwanda National Football team, Amavubi, will participate in CHAN 2018. It will be the third time for Rwanda to participate in CHAN. Amavubi first played CHAN games in 2011 in Sudan when they were eliminated in the group stage.
For the second time, Amavubi played in CHAN in 2016. This time, Rwanda was the host nation. Amavubi made it to the quarterfinals where DRC’s Leopards who came to be champions as they beat Mali 3-0 in the final eliminated them. DRC became the only nation to win two CHAN titles as they had won it when it was first played in 2009, hosted by Ivory Coast.
Rwanda’s way to CHAN 2018
Rwanda will play CHAN games though they had been knocked out by Uganda. On their way to CHAN 2018, Amavubi eliminated Tanzania but chances to participate had been ended by the Uganda Cranes as the Ugandans beat Amavubi 3-0 in Namboole while the return leg in Kigali, Rwanda beat Uganda 2-0, which was not enough to secure a qualification.
To get the ticket for CHAN 2018, Rwanda was qualified to compete in the place of Egypt. Egypt withdrew from the 2018 CHAN competition citing the ”preparations for the FIFA World Cup 2018 to be held in Russia” as a reason . CAF resolved that Rwanda and Ethiopia would encounter in a play off game seeking to replace Egyptian Pharaohs.
Rwanda qualified as they eliminated Ethiopia on a 3-2 score aggregate after securing a 3-2 win in Ethiopia on November 5, and a goalless draw for the return leg on November 12, 2017.
To prepare for CHAN, Rwanda participated in the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup 2017 where they were eliminated in group stages. Amavubi’s coach, German Antoine Hey attributed the early elimination to the fact that Rwanda had not gone to Kenya to play CECAFA aiming at winning a trophy but to use it a preparation opportunity for CHAN.
“It’s never good to lose but my responsibility is to build options for the team and players that we have and give these young boys a chance to learn. For me I believe it’s a good to give our young players a chance to learn and that’s more important than the result. And it doesn’t mean that I will always be playing the first 11 because you might head to CHAN with a team full of injuries and you end up being kicked out of the tournament in the group stage,” he said after Amavubi were beaten by Zanzibar in CECAFA 2017.
Rwanda lost to hosts Kenya’s Harambee Stars 0-2 in the opening game. They were defeated by Zanzibar 1-2. Zanzibar finished as runners-up as they lost in the final to Kenya who beat them on penalties. Rwanda drew goalless with Libya who played as a guest nation in CECAFA and beat Tanzania 2-1 in their last game.
After CECAFA 2017, Rwanda held a 10 day camp in Tunisia preparing for CHAN 2018 that ended on . They played three friendly games of which one, against Sudan, was cancelled in the 40th minute as players went physical due to a disputed freekick that was awarded to Rwanda.
They drew Namibia 1-1 and lost to Algeria 1-4 on Wednesday before they headed to Morocco for the 2018 CHAN finals.
Antoine Hey summoned the 23-man squad to represent Rwanda in CHAN 2018 finals. No player among the 23 played for Rwanda in CHAN 2011 held in Sudan as skipper Eric Ndayishimiye Bakame who had been selected by Ghanaian Selas Tetteh who was Amavubi head coach, could not fly to Sudan with the team as he had an injury.
Rayon Sports’ goalie Bakame and defender Faustin Usengimana are two of the players who represented Rwanda in CHAN 2016 when they were coached by Northern Irish Jonathan Mc Kinstry.
Others are APR FC’s right back Fitina Omborenga, APR FC midfielders Jihad Bizimana and Amran Nshimiyimana, Rayon Sports’ Yannick Mukunzi, Police FC’s left back Celestin Ndayishimiye and left winger Savio Dominique Nshuti who announced the termination of his contract with AS Kigali two weeks ago.
Goalkeepers Marcel Nzarora (Police FC) and Yves Kimenyi (APR FC) with defenders Soter Kayumba (AS Kigali), Eric Rutanga (Rayon Sports), Eric Iradukunda (AS Kigali), Herve Rugwiro (APR) and Ally Mbogo (SC Kiyovu) will be playing CHAN for the first time.
Midfielders Ally Niyonzima (AS Kigali), Djabel Imanishimwe (Rayon Sports), Muhadjiri Hakizimana (APR) and forwards, Innocent Nshuti (APR), Justin Mico (Police FC), Abeddy Biramahire (Police FC) and Barnabe Mubumbyi (Bugesera FC) will be aiming to add to their footballing experience playing CHAN for the first time.
Amavubi are grouped in pool C with Nigeria who won the third place in CHAN 2014, Equatorial Guinea who qualiffied for the first time in CHAN and Libya, winners of CHAN 2014 held in South Africa and were held by Rwanda to a goalless draw in CECAFA 2017.
Now, Antoine Hey’s men are in Tanger where they will open their 2018 CHAN finals against Nigeria’s Super Eagles on Monday, January 15 at Grand Stade de Tanger. They will play Equatorial Guinea on January 19 to end their group stage games on January 23, 2017 at the same stadium.
Speaking to the Rwandan Football Federation website, after the game Amavubi was defeated by Algeria 1-4, head coach Antoine ‘Tony’ Hey said, “We lost unfortunately 4-1 to Algeria. The result doesn’t reflect the run of the game. We created a lot of chances that we could have scored. We made some defending mistakes that cost, we learnt our lesson, it is a warning shot and I hope the players have had it and the good thing, there are no injuries and all players are still available and fit for Monday, January 15.”
“Friendly matches don’t count anything for us at this moment in time, it’s the Monday match against Nigeria that we are focused on and this is when it counts, this is when we need to be ready and definitely we will be ready,”
He added, “Everybody is a little bit disappointed because of the results today (Wednesday) but not because of the match and now we are looking forward to Monday, we cant wait to start our campaign,”
CHAN 2018, started this Saturday, January 13, when hosts Morocco plays Mauritania at 21:30′ Central Africa Time while, on Sunday January 14, 2017, Guinea will face off Sudan before Ivory Coast clash with Namibia.