Rwanda: Bringing Back Foreign Players – What Approach Should APR Adopt?

“It’s a decision that was difficult to take but, with the current outcomes, we have no plan to sign any foreign players ever again. They policy is working.”

These are the words that former APR FC Chairman General Mubarakh Muganga said in January 2021 responding on APR’s stance to use ‘homegrown players only’ policy.

Of course, you cannot begrudge the outgoing club boss because APR have been dominating domestic football, winning nine league titles since the policy took action in 2012.

However, the club has failed to glitter at the continental scene.

APR’s decision to use only local players in an effort to give more Rwandan players the needed opportunities and also to develop their chosen profession.

It was a laudable idea as more good local players are offered great platforms to excel while the move also brings a sense of patriotism among the players.

In terms of local glory, it has worked to perfection, players like Djihad Bizimana, Emmanuel Imanishimwe, Ange Mutsinzi and others all got opportunities to play professional football in Europe through APR.

On the domestic front, the club went unbeatable for four consecutive seasons in the league with local players. The club also posted a 50-match unbeaten run, a record which could take rivals decades to beat it.

APR looks unmatchable in the domestic front.

APR’s biggest problem has, however, been in their continental campaign, the semi finals berth in the 2003 Cup Winners Cup remains the club’s biggest achievement in their continental history.

The past decade has even been poorer, as the military club failed to get to the Group stages of either the CAF champions league or the Confederation Cup.

It is clear that, to reach your full potential in Africa, a club like APR now needs to augment their squad with foreign players before they can excel.

In December 2022, the club finally agreed to revert to signing foreign players for the coming season.

Gen Muganga made it clear that their target is to do well in Africa and that could only be done with the infusion of foreign players.

“All these years, we’ve been trying to reach there (group stages), but we failed. Maybe it was because we lacked some quality players,” he said.

“Our policy as APR FC is to give opportunities to young Rwandan players and that will never change in the local competitions but if we get the chance to qualify for continental competitions, we’ll bring in two or three foreign players if the coach wants them,” Muganga added.

What approach should APR use in signing foreign players?

APR is known for quality and over the past years, they have brought on superb talents.

The club has the financial capacity to compete with any elite club on the continent for top players.

Previously, they brought in goalkeeper Aimé Desiré Ndizeye Ndanda, James Odoch, Didier Bizimana (Burundi), Manfred Kizito(Uganda), Mark Sirengo, Abbas Rassou, Victor Nyirenda(Malawi), Léonel Saint Preux (Haiti) and Chiukepo Musowoya(Malawi).

All these players made their mark for the club with some excelling on the road to the fruitful 2003 Cup winners Cup campaign.

Certainly, the football market now has changed as it has become bigger, clubs are fighting for quality foreign talent and you must draw up a strategic plan in order to get the best.

Times Sport takes a look at five ways APR can use to get quality talents

-Signing national team players

As stated earlier, APR have the needed funds to spend on any quality player they want. Money is not a problem for the club.

Normally, national team players or players with national team caps have seen it all, some are good and have played at the highest level. Such players can be very helpful to the club and also raise the bar high at the African stage.

-Adopting the TP Mazembe style

TP Mazembe’s dominance in African club football from 2009 to 2015 was due to a strategic approach they took.

They targeted Ghana and Zambia and had regional scouting agents in the two countries who looked into the local league and recommended talents for the Congolese club.

They had Oduro Sarfo as the representative for Ghana and he recommended Solomon Asante, Gladson Awako, Daniel Nii Adjei, Richard Kissi Boateng, and Yaw Frimpong to the club.

Their representative in Zambia also brought Rainford Kalaba, Stoppila Sunzu and others. All these players helped TP Mazembe to rule Africa.

APR can target two football countries in Africa and have representatives there who can bring them good players.