APR wins 14th Rwandan league title

Some of the APR players celebrate the club’s 14th league title

 

APR 3-0 AS Muhanga (*Forfeit)

Rayon Sports 2-1 Musanze

Etincelles 1-2 Amagaju

Police 6-0 Marines

Gicumbi 0-0 Esperance

APR FC lifted the 2013/14 Turbo King Football league title, to become the first Rwandan club with 14 league titles.

 The military side had an easy ride to the title as their opponents AS Muhanga failed to turn for the game following players strike over unpaid salary arrears for the last four months.

To APR, this was a historical title following their decision in 2012 to offload foreign players and feature only Rwandans players as a way of giving them a chance to elevate their careers. When the decision was taken, the military side recruited the best cream of local footballers and went ahead to finish third with Rayon Sports winning the league title in 2013 to end a nine-year drought.

Though head coach Ali Bizimungu had said on Saturday that players might not honour the final game of the season, APR FC and their fans flocked to the stadium in high spirits eager to take on AS Muhanga and battle for the league title.

 By 3pm, AS Muhanga had not left their home base in Muhanga district. It was 45 minutes later that centre referee Louis Hakizimana decided the game result in APR’s favour before informing the Rwanda Football Federation, Ferwafa who had to wait for other league matches to wind up before crowning title winners, APR.

 The Muhanga District’s Executive Secretary, Celse Gasana when contacted for a comment failed to respond, ignoring our repeated calls.

However, coach Bizimungu said, “Players vehemently refused to travel to Kigali demanding for their unpaid arrears. The players are demanding unpaid salaries for four months and recruitment funds, all amounting to Rwf 25 millions,”

 “Gasana called me at around 2pm to convince the players to play, assuring them of the payment at the end of the day but all our pleas fell on deaf ears,” added Bizimungu.

Despite the AS Muhanga’s absence, APR, Rwanda’s most successful football club, revived their trophy cabinet in jubilations late in the evening as they were given the league title by the Minister of Sports and Culture Protais Mitali and a winner’s cheque worth Rwf. 10 millions.

APR, with 64 points at the top of the table, will represent Rwanda at next year’s Orange Africa Champions league as well as Cecafa Kagame club Championship.

 Arch rivals Rayon Sports who beat Musanze 2-1 were also honoured with a Rwf. 5 million cheque for their second-place finish with 62 points.

 APR scored 46 goals, conceding 13 goals to end the season with the best defence while rivals Rayon Sports found the net 55 times, conceding goals to emerge as the best striking force led by top scorer Burundian Cedric Amissi.

 APR’s progress

The option of giving a chance to Rwandan born talents resulted on a poor note, failing to win any silverware in 2013.

 On the local scene, they missed on two trophies-Primus league and Peace Cup while on the foreign scene; the military side lost the Cecafa club title to Burundi’s Vital’O and the EAC Military Games title.

 Despite a paining season, the youthful side bounced back to stage a successful season. Their progress this season has been remarkable despite facing some hitches in the coaching area.

 German-born Andreas Spiers who took over from Eric Nshimiyimana in early 2013 handled the youthful side until February this year when he resigned from the club after being slapped with a five-match ban over his in disciplinary actions.

 Vincent Mashami who was his assistant coach took over the mantle with the same mission of ensuring that APR lifts the title. Mashami proved he was the perfect man for the job after defeating Police FC 1-0 and thumping Gicumbi 4-1 to extend the club’s tally at the top of the national league standings with 43 points out of 18 matches that had been played at that time.

 Mashami, a former Isonga and U 17 assistant coach had initially played a key role in identifying some of the youth players like Andrew Buteera, Emery Bayisenge, Farouk Ruhinda and Charles Tibigana who had been recruited by the military side.

 Every coach has his own style of gunning for points and Mashami created a friendly bond with players, a feat which helped them to dethrone rivals Rayon Sports as the league champions in the closing stages of the season.

 In 26 matches played, APR lost only two matches; 2-1 against Rayon Sports in March this year under Mashami and 1-0 against AS Kigali in October last year under German Spiers.

 Strict club management under Major General Jack Musemakweli which catered for players’ needs and motivation as well as role played by senior players such as skipper Ismail Nshutiyamagara and midfielder Jean Baptista Mugiraneza were also some of the contributing factors that lent a hand the military side to seal the historical title.

 Challenges

This season’s Turbo King League was marred by different challenges which ranged from poor refereeing, match fixing and hooliganism among others.

 The first leg of the season which ended in late December last year had no anomalies but things started taking shape in the mid of the second leg as the battle for the title intensified while lower clubs were fighting against relegation.

 This met with the new Ferwafa administration of Vincent Degaule Nzamwita who was elected into chair in January and before he could get used to his new office, pressure was mounting between rival fans as referees became the scapegoats.

 The issues reached a breaking point when Rayon Sports lost vital points against AS Kigali in their 1-all draw, a point where APR gained their status at the top of the table to go ahead and win the title. In frustrations, Rayon Sports fans vandalized the stadium, not leaving out some of their players and coaches who were penalized for causing the violence by Ferwafa.

 Clubs like Musanze and SC Kiyovu sacked their coaches and players over match fixing claims after clubs like Mukura and Amagaju started garnering maximum points to avoid relegation.

 However, all in all this season’s league exhibited some finest football, a feat which has seen local football grow to a promising standard.

 Duo relegated

AS Muhanga and Esperance were demoted to next year’s second division league after they failed to get themselves out of the relegation zone.

 AS Muhanga who never turned up for their game ended the season sitting at the tip of the league standings with points in 26 matches while Esperance ranked 13th failed to force a win away to Gicumbi to end the season with 21 points.

 Godfroid Okoko pulled a surprise comeback, beating Etincelles 2-1 in Rubavu to ensure their lifeline in the top flight league while Police thrashed Marines 6-0 at Kicukiro turf.

 The two new league entrants who will qualify from second division league will be known on May 10 after the second leg of the semi finals.

 Previous winners

1995-APR

1996-APR

1997-Rayon Sport

1998-Rayon Sport

1999-APR

2000-APR

2001-APR

2003-APR

2004-Rayon Sport

2005-APR

2006-APR

2007-APR

2008-Atraco

2009-APR

2010-APR

2011-APR

2012-APR

2013-Rayon Sport

2014-APR