Rwandan athletes are not popular when it comes to the Olympics or Commonwealth Games; the reason is that the country has never won any medal in either competition.
But Jean Pierre Cyiza (pictured) hopes to make Rwanda famous for boxing at least in the future before he hangs his gloves.
At the age of 19, the lightweight boxer won Rwanda’s first bronze medal at the 2014 All African Youth Games in the Republic of Congo capital Brazzaville.
Rwanda will be presented in five sports disciplines namely; Cycling, Athletics, Beach volleyball and Para Power lifting at this year’s Commonwealth Games scheduled to run from April 4 to 15 in Queensland, Australia.
For any athlete, participating in the Commonwealth Games or Olympics is a dream come true and for Cyiza, carrying the Rwandan flag at the Gold Coast, would have presented him exactly that race opportunity.
Unfortunately, his dream came to an end prematurely when he and the female national boxer Ratifa Ujeneza received the sad news from the Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee (RNOSC) that boxing was ruled out for the Commonwealth Games.
Cyiza says that, having started intensive training a fortnight ago in preparation for the Games, they were taken aback when RNOSC informed them that they would not be part of the Team Rwanda because of the ongoing disputes in the local boxing fraternity.
When asked why boxing was initially selected and then later dropped, RNOSC president Ambassador Valens Munyabagisha said that the Rwanda Amateur Boxing Association (RABA) did not fulfill the required criteria to represent the country.
He hesitated to give further explanation but added: “All national teams are under the Ministry of Sports and Culture except that RNOSC is a partner when it comes to preparations.”
As if that was not enough, last year the same federation was on the very last minute told by the Ministry of Sports and Culture that the team would not travel to Brazzaville for the 2017 Africa Boxing Continental Championship, again, because they were not “well prepared.”
Basically, that was the end of Cyiza’s dream to compete in Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games simply because to earn a ticket to Japan, in boxing one had to first perform well in Brazzaville then qualify for the AIBA World Boxing Championships last September in the Germany City of Hamburg.
Meaning, if any national boxer is to try out his/her luck in the Olympic ring, then they will have to wait till Paris 2024, still, that is if they qualify through the usual process.
“I feel so sad and disappointed, I think I will quit because I don’t see any future of boxing in my country. I guess that seems to be the end of my dream,” a visibly dejectedly Cyiza told Saturday Sport this week.
Well, some of the reasons which have led boxing to miss important continental and world boxing competitions include the lack of domestic competitions.
The Ministry of Sports and Culture has long stated that they don’t see why a team like boxing should represent the nation in any competition if they can’t organize domestic national competitions.
Eugene Nzabanterura, a counsel in RNOSC also concurs with the ministry’s reason.
He says that the national boxing federation, which does not even have a single boxing ring, cannot be trusted to represent the country in major competitions – to him, that would be a waste of resources, the boxers would not put up any good performance apart from mere participation.
Indeed for pugilists like Cyiza, this might be the beginning of the end of their budding careers, not because they are retiring but because of the endless power struggles that have held back the federation and the sports in general for years.
Charles Muvunyi, the proprietor and coach of Kigali Life Boxing Club believes that federation officials need to meet and resolve the grievances within the clubs, through mutual understanding then a national championship can be organized.
He noted that, “The problem is that leadership lacks the passion for the sport,” he said adding that, “they only push for their own interests at the expense of the sport.”
“We have a federation that is dysfunctional and the only solution is either to have new elections or else boxing is going nowhere,” Muvunyi explained.
The local boxing federation under the leadership of Vicky Kalisa needs to wake from the slumber they have been in for so long and revive the sport that has a following but lacks clear leadership otherwise, talents of pugilists like Cyiza, Ujeneza and others, will continue to be buried in the dark.