French story by Ariane Mukundente translated by Afriquela1ère.com/en
The Friday’s Gratitude of this 17 December 2021 is very special. I present to you a magical team with a special history, defying any logic as to the collective euphoria it arouses among its fans, not only in Rwanda, but also among Rwandans from all over the world.
I warn you in advance, I am not in a conflict of interest because I am not a fan of Rayon Sports, but I am a fan of its ‘fans’ after the game when it wins. It is a delight for me to see the ballad of happy people who have lost their reason in joy and joy.
In all the history of Rwanda, I have never seen anything that unites Rwandans as much as the team of Rayon Sports Football Club. In Rwanda, where there are always angles where everyone can affirm their difference with others, the Rayon Sports team breaks down all barriers. Sworn enemies in politics or other fields become friends when they find themselves in front of this team. It is a sports club that transcends all differences, even the most visceral hatreds. All his fans act in the same way: whether they were born in a remote corner in Nshili or in the upscale neighborhood of the city of Kigali, Rayon Sports sticks them in the skin. It looks like a common ‘Rayons Sports’ genetic trait that would be found in the DNA of individuals.
Where does this team come from and what is its story?
The Rayon Sports team was formed in 1964 in Nyanza, in the former municipality of Nyabisindu. Football was launched in the 1930s by King Mutara III Rudahigwa in collaboration with the priests. The teams were formed following the chieftains. Thus there was the Amaregura of Nyanza for which played notably the king Rudahigwa.
After the abolition of the monarchy, Kigali became the capital and there was a proliferation of teams for each region that followed the names of Communes. The Kiyovu communal team in Kigali, the Nyabisindu communal team in Nyanza, the Mukura communal team (Butare), as well as other less strong teams were born.
In 1964, the former Vice President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Rwanda in Nyanza, Murego Donati, formed the new team of the communal administration of Nyanza and called it “Imirasire”. In 1965, the Belgian priest Ernotte Channoine of the Christ King College of Nyanza renamed the team with the now legendary name “RAYONS SPORTS”.
While other teams remained regional, only the Rayon Sports team defied all logic by seeing its popularity spread to all regions of the country whose borders it even crossed. Rayon Sports obtained its legal status on May 25, 1968, thus becoming the first team in the Republic of Rwanda to be recognized by a notary. With the imprisonment of Murego, the team lost a lot of support and was able to survive thanks to the traders from Nyanza and those from Kigali who were originally from Nyanza.
The Club Rayon Sports inscribed its name in the history of Rwanda for the first time in 1975, the year it won its first championship endorsed by FIFA and CAF. This was the first time FERWAFA was accepted by FIFA. So proud of its team, Nyanza exploded her joy as did the rest of the country. Rayon Sports football Club has since become a legend in the history of football in Rwanda. He multiplied the trophies especially during the July 5 Cup. In 1981, Rayon Sports also won the championship without losing a single game. This high made of arms allowed him in 1982 to leave the country for the first time to participate in the CAF championship. After winning the 1981 national championship,Rayon Sports moved to Kigali due to a financial crisis, with Nyanza-born traders wanting the team to get closer to them. In Kigali, however, Rayon Sports competed against large teams such as Kiyovu Sport, which gave it the name of «Gasenyi», the name of the waste produced from the roasting of coffee (Gasenyi), and because it was sponsored by RWANDEX.
This era was also marked by its fierce competition with the Panthères noires, the assigned team of the armed forces of the time, the FAR. In 1989, Rayon sports FC entered the history of Rwanda for the second time, becoming the first team to win a trophy abroad, BRARUDI, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Vital’O. The tournament included teams such as the Vital ‘O and Inter Stars of Burundi as well as Rayon Sports and Kiyovu Sports of Rwanda.
The team got the glory thanks to its Congolese coach Raul Shungu Jean-Pierre who came from Espoir de Cyangugu. He built a winning squad by buying solid players from other teams like Célestin Gasangwa, aka Tigana. Rayon Sports continued to win the national title, allowing it to represent Rwanda outside the country. In 1994, it made it to the eighth final of the CAF Cup, Cup Winners, later becoming the CAF Confederation Cup. During this match of March 6, 1994, the Club Rayon Sports beats the Al Hilal of Sudan, 4 goals against 1. Remarkable fact: this is the game that was watched by the largest number of football fans in the history of Rwanda. Amahoro Stadium filled to capacity, Rayon Sports Football club offered a spectacular match to its 35,000 fans.
The genocide against the Tutsis of 1994 had a great impact on the Rayon Sports club as for other teams. In the aftermath of the genocide, Rayon Sports rose from the ashes and its popularity did not wane one iota despite losing so many fans during the genocide. It has gained more and its popularity has even increased in Rwanda and abroad.
In December 1997, Rayon Sports won the CECAFA Cup by beating the Zanzibar Murandenge 2-1. Its history continued to grow when the big Rwandan club became the first East African team to reach the Africa Cup of Nations in 2018 and then win the Champions League and Peace Cup. Nowadays,Rayon Sports is a team loved and admired by different people in Rwanda and abroad.
As in time, the Army team, APR now still opposes a fierce competition to Rayon Sports. The APR-Rayon Sports matches are the matches that give the fans of both teams the most sensations. When Rayon Sports wins, it’s total madness. The reactions of its fans are in themselves another match that begins for us. It is a delight to see all these human beings melt into joy, under the intoxication of such intense joy that it makes them lose all their means.
Among the few key players who will never be forgotten in the hearts of Rayon Sports fans are the following famous names: Fatikaramu, Tigana, Sembagare, Lisala Tanganyika, Djuma Pala, Ndiki, Pokou, Semukanga, Rutabinhwa, Murangwa, Kanyandekwe, Murenzi Kassim, Kayiranga, Mbusaa kombi, Habimana Chrysostome, Gatete… and many more.
The roster of the famous football club includes nine championships won in the following years: 1975, 1981, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2012/2013, 2016/2017, 2018/2019. He also won nine national titles in 1976, 1979, 1982, 1989, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2005, 2016.
It is with great pleasure that I ask you to pay tribute to this team, the only one to make Rwandans around the world vibrate. Whether we find it fabulous or bizarre does not change anything: few other events cause a collective euphoria than the Rayon Sports match. This team makes people insanely happy. And as proof: the legendary Rwarutabura, a finished fan of this team. Niyubahwe!
Rayon Sports FC is a team that must be written to the national heritage. Without the team of Rayon Sports, Rwanda would not exist.
Rayon Sports, Gikundiro, Ikipe y’Imana, Kimaranzara, Team ya Wanainchi, NIYUBAHWE!