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Monday, July 15, 2024

Why we shouldn’t let Rayon Sports die by their own sword

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According to Rayon Sports Wikipedia page, the club commands/enjoys “more than 80%” of football fans in Rwanda, which makes it arguably the “most popular team” and the only “competent citizen-owned” club in the country.

This figure of course is an estimate but one that may be not too far off the mark. The club indeed enjoys overwhelmingly massive support but its demons can’t allow it to thrive, unfortunately.

However, what is not an estimate, is the fact that since 1995, Rayon Sports has hired and fired 23 head coaches (permanent and interim). That is the highest in the Rwandan league.

This is an insane turnover for a club that has won 7 league titles in that period, and nine in total since its inception in 1965. The most recent league title came in the 2018/19 season.

The latest casualty to have his head on the chopping block is Frenchman Julien Mette, who has been in the job for barely five months.

The 42-year-old signed in January on an initial six-months contract to replace Tunisian Yamen Zelfani, who parted ways with the club in October 2023 after just three months in charge.

There are conflicting reports regarding Mette’s departure and we may never know exactly why the former Djibouti national team coach turned down an offer of a one-year extension.

Having been in charge of Djibouti for three years, Mette joined Congolese aide AS Otôho in 2022, leading them to the Congo Premier League title a year later. He is a winner, you could say.

Maybe if he had stayed longer and given the needed support by both his bosses and fans, we might have seen what he’s capable of, but that, we shall never know, while the revolving sack door at Rayon gets in even higher motion.

Rayon Sports may not be the most successful football club in Rwanda, but they are, by far, the biggest, if numbers are a thing to go by.

Consensus dictates that Rwandan football needs a stable, vibrant and successful Rayon Sports, for, the two are like glue and paper.

Rayon Sports as a brand, believe it or not, is synonym with Rwandan football, you can’t mention Rwandan football minus “Gikundiro,” as it is nicknamed.

But the club that has not won the league in the past five seasons, they are back on square one once again, as they search for a new coach ahead of the 2024/25 campaign.

In football, stability is often proclaimed as the bedrock of success. Clubs that maintain consistency, both on and off the field, tend to reap the rewards of long-term planning.

However, the case of Rayon Sports paints a contrasting picture—a club renowned for its rapid turnover of coaches despite enjoying a lion’s share of Rwanda’s football support.

Founded in 1965, Rayon Sports is a towering figure in Rwandan football, boasting an unparalleled fan base that spans the nation.

It’s a club deeply intertwined with the fabric of Rwandan football/society, where its successes and failures resonate widely.

Yet, despite clinching numerous league titles—seven since 1995 and nine overall—the club has struggled to translate domestic dominance into sustained national and continental success.

One glaring issue undermining Rayon Sports’ ambitions is the constant turnover of coaches.

In the past 29 years alone, the club has gone through an astonishing 23 head coaches—a statistic that underscores a fundamental lack of stability at the managerial level.

Why stability is key to success!

Stability within football clubs, particularly in leadership roles such as coaching and club presidency, is not merely a luxury but a strategic necessity for sustained success.

A stable coaching tenure allows for the implementation and refining of a long-term footballing philosophy.

Coaches need time to get to know each player and their attributes as well as the club’s philosophy (if any) while working through their tactical know-how.

Coaches who remain in their roles for extended periods can impart their authority, tactical acumen and build a coherent playing style that resonates throughout the club.

If you’re a club like Rayon Sports, this is what you need, it’s not rocket science! Some people will say even APR FC does the same thing, but I will tell them, their situation is different.

APR, who are Rayon Sports’ biggest rivals, also change coaches regularly but at least for them, they support their coaches and the coaches, more often than not, deliver success, albeit locally.

Stability fosters an environment where players can grow under consistent coaching methodologies.

Players benefit from familiarity with their coach’s expectations, which contributes to improved on-field performance.

This continuity helps preserve core values, traditions, and a sense of identity that players and fans alike can rally around.

Achieving sustainable success requires patience and a commitment to long-term goals. Rayon Sports fans adore their team and will go to any length to support it, but they are often let down by those who make big decisions.

The people in charge of the club, led by the club chairman Jean Fidèle Uwayezu, need to realize that stable leadership minimizes knee-jerk reactions to short-term setbacks, allowing for gradual improvement.

Impact on Rwandan football

Rayon Sports’ instability extends beyond its own fortunes—it reverberates throughout Rwandan football.

As the most popular and widely-supported club in the country, Rayon sets a precedent for others. If you wish well Rwandan football, you don’t want to see its biggest club incapacitated by its own sword, but as they say, old habits die hard.

Its struggles with stability undermine efforts to elevate Rwandan football on the continental stage, where consistency and long-term planning are a paramount.

The tale of Rayon Sports underscores a fundamental truth in football, that stability breeds success. Yet, this sleeping giant of a club, seems happy to do things the other way.

Maybe its leaders are just unconsciously foolish (no pun intended), for, they keep repeating past mistakes hoping to get different results!

For Rwandan football to thrive and for Rayon Sports to achieve its potential as a competitive force nationally and continentally, there must be deliberate effort to change course, for the better.

This entails not only addressing the revolving door of coaching appointments but also continuity in leadership and strategic planning.

Stability at every level of a football club—from the boardroom to the training ground—is not just desirable but essential for sustained success.

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