Africa-Press – Rwanda. After about a ten-month hiatus, the second division league finally returns this weekend as clubs get ready to battle for promotion to the top flight league which kicks off on September 17.
The league which was halted midway due to a rise in coronavirus cases will now be played in a short period of time where the 20 teams that are grouped into four (4) groups of five (5) teams will play a round robin format with the losers being eliminated.
As clubs go head to head this weekend, Times Sport looks at four clubs which are candidates for the second division league title and a promotion to the premier league.
Etoile de l’Est
Etoile de l’Est are seen by many as the ‘unlucky’ club based on how many times they missed out on the top flight promotion in the final stages. The Eastern Province-based club has been chasing a topflight promotion for the 17 years now and, like the previous seasons, the club is starting as favorites to progress to the top flight league.
From the club’s new head coach Issa Camarade Banamwana and his dressing room to the club administration, everyone is convinced that time is now to finally seal a promotion to the Rwanda Premier League.
The club has reinforced their squad, securing the services of new signings including striker Jimmy Mbaraga, former AS Muhanga defender Fabien Twagirayezu and goalkeeper Protogene Rukundo while Fabrice Twagizimana extended his stay at the club until the end of 2021/22 season.
The club, alongside Heroes, were relegated to the second division after local football governing body decided to declare the 2019/20 Rwanda Premier League over after 23 match days from a possible 30 due to the covid-19 pandemic.
In what they called ‘unfair relegation’, the decision did not go well with both clubs and they openly protested against Ferwafa’s decision to relegate them yet the league season was not completed.
The pair’s appeal was, however, rejected and Gicumbi has since been preparing for the second division league as they seek promotion back to the top flight division next season.
The Southern Province-based club could have sealed a spot in the topflight league during the 2019/20 season had the pandemic not cost them a chance to play the playoffs last year after 11 players tested positive for coronavirus.
The club were hence disqualified to play the quarter finals of the second division after they were penalised for recklessness and violating preventive guidelines.
As the second division league returns, club head coach Suleiman Niyibizi is confident that he has a squad which is capable of qualifying to the premier league after four seasons in the second division following the signing of key players including former Rayon Sports and Gicumbi FC defender Olivier Uwingabire, Eric Muhanuka and Pacifique Mugwaneza who moved to the club from Etincelles.
The Kigali-based club is forcing through a top flight promotion for the first time at all costs after they suffered defeat against Rutsiro FC in the semifinals on penalties last season.
The latter went in to win the second division league title after beating Gorilla FC in the final. The club is now pooled in Group C alongside Espérance FC, United Stars, University of Rwanda and Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle.
Vision Fc rarely depends on big names to challenge for the title but last season proved to opponents that the club can’t be written off from a top flight promotion despite relying on a youthful squad.