10 key highlights that shaped the sports sector since Covid-19 outbreak

Participants take part during the Kigali International Peace Marathon in 2019. The 2020 edition was one of several sports competitions that was cancelled because of Covid-19. The event is slated for June. Photo: Sam Ngendahimana

Since Rwanda reported the first case of coronavirus in March last year, sports just like many other things have not been the same.

Times Sports looks at 10 key events that shaped sports in an era of the pandemic.

Government suspends all sporting activities

The national football league and all sporting activities were suspended on March 15 after the government rolled out a raft of measures, including banning large gatherings and urging the public to observe social distancing, as well as limiting movement where possible.

As a result, all leagues were suspended.

2019/20 football season called off

Champions APR were in May last year crowned Rwanda Premier League champions for a record 18th time after Ferwafa called an end to the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

FERWAFA handed the title to the army side, which ended the league season unbeaten, based on the standings after 23 matches. APR led the league table with 57 points.

Meanwhile, the Peace Cup tournament, for men and women, were pronounced null and void, while all youth competitions were indefinitely postponed.

Non-contact sports given all-clear to resume

After three months without any sports activity, the government on June 5, last year, gave green light for non-contact sports to resume but in compliance with preventive guidelines.

Cycling, one of the most popular sports in Rwanda, was one of the non-contact outdoor sports that were cleared to resume, alongside jogging, athletics, individual physical fitness, outdoor exercises, hiking, cycling, golf, tennis, fencing, motorsports and badminton.

However, athletes were allowed to resume only if they wear face-masks before and after their exercise sessions. They were also cautioned to always carry hand sanitizers whenever necessary. As well as observe at least 1.5 metres of social distancing.

2020 Kigali International Peace Marathon cancelled

The marathon event is among the sporting events cancelled last year to contain the spread of covid-19.

Initially scheduled on May 17, the Rwanda Athletics moved the event to June 2 but it was suspended until further notice.

In October, a new tentative date was set — December 27 — but the organisers later decided to cancel it, for the first time since its inception in 2004, after failing to get approval from the Ministry of Sports.

This year’s edition is slated for June 20

Visa restrictions bar Team Rwanda from World Champs

Travel restrictions in the European Schengen region dented Team Rwanda’s chances of participating at the 2020 UCI Road World Championships in Imola and the Emilia-Romagna, Italy from September 24-27.

The 2020 edition of the annual event, the world’s biggest cycling event, was initially scheduled for September 20-27 in Aigle and Martigny, Switzerland, but the world cycling body (UCI) was forced to move the competition to another country following the Swiss Federal Council’s ban on events convening more than 1000 people.

Rwanda, as a result, had no other option but to send France-based rider Samuel Mugisha as the sole flagbearer since he did not need a visa to travel to Italy.

However, the 23-year old, who rides for French Cycling side LMP–La Roche Sur Yon, did not manage to finish the gruesome road race.

11 Amagaju players test positive

Nyamagabe-based club Amagaju FC was one of eight sides that were vying for promotion to the 2020/21 Rwanda Premier League but suffered a huge blow after 11 players tested positive prior to coronavirus in the second division football league playoffs in November.

The club was later disqualified from the playoffs after the executive committee of Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa) accused its administration of recklessness and violating preventive guidelines.

Clubs forged Covid-19 test results

On December 14, the Ministry of Sports suspended the 2020/21 Rwanda Premier League indefinitely after it was found that some players and clubs had violated covid-19 guidelines, which resulted in new cases.

Some of the clubs allegedly forged results of Covid-19. The National Football governing body, Ferwafa fined four clubs which include; Rayon Sports, Rutsiro, AS Muhanga and Bugesera.

Cash-strapped Rayon lose key players

The past 12 months were characterized by a player exodus at Rayon Sports, one of the clubs that were the most hit by Covid-19 after they failed to pay players’ wages.

It prompted the likes of Yves Kimenyi, Eric Rutanga, Yannick Bizimana, Eric Iradukunda and Fabrice Mugheni among many others, to leave the club.

Resumption of 2019/20 Basketball season

After seven months of no sporting competitions due to Covid-19, basketball action resumed in October, as the Bank of Kigali Basketball National League was looking to conclude its 2019/20 season.

The league resumed on condition that clubs gather in camps to avoid any contact with people from outside.

Patriots were eventually crowned the champions.

The new season begins on March 19 when hoops come back to court for pre-season games.

Tour du Rwanda pushed in May

The spike in covid-19 infections since December last year not only forced the government to impose a second lockdown but also prompted the Rwanda Cycling Federation to postpone the 13th edition of Tour du Rwanda to May.

The annual cycling event, which was initially slated from February 21-28, will take place from May 2-9.



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