This summer Rwanda Under 17s will be the first side from their country to ever make an appearance on the world stage.
The Junior Wasps will play in the FIFA Under 17 World Cup after winning the African Under 17 Championship earlier this year, beating Burkina Faso in the final.
The African champions are joined by Burkina Faso, Congo and Ivory Coast in Mexico where they will be looking to boost the profile of Rwanda on the world stage.
The government in the country have heavily stepped up their efforts to give support to the side. They have paid for a 20-day training camp for the boys in Paris.
Rwanda will take on France Under 17s on 28th April after games against Auxerre, Lyon and PSG’s reserve outfits.
The excitement by qualifying for a global event has had the small central African country buzzing for more, and manager Richard Tardy has said “I noticed how when we were competing in the African competition earlier this year, people sat up and took notice. And when we qualified for the semi-finals, the whole country supported us. Everybody was talking about the team. Even the president of the country came to the semi-final and the final. Now going to Mexico and playing there will be a very big event, not only in terms of football, but for the whole country,”
It is even more surprising that the Under 17 league in Rwanda is not even fully functioning yet. Tardy has a small selection of players that play outside the country but the majority play their trade in their homeland.
Tardy credits much of the side’s advancement to the football academies in Rwanda. “Through the FIFA Goal Project, a very successful academy has been built and many of the players in the squad come from that academy,” he said. “We also have an artificial pitch that was built through the Goal Project and that means we can play at any time. We are now reaping the rewards of those projects, and I think it is a sign that football in Rwanda is developing.”
The draw for the World Cup will be held in Mexico on 17th May, you can see that draw here on The Youth Radar!