Amavubi Stars do not expect a smooth ride at the 2016 Caf African Nations Championship (Chan) at home but are nonetheless delighted with the spotlight that will be shone on them as a result of being pooled with strong teams.
Hosts Rwanda were drawn against Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire and Gabon in Group ‘A’ in the tournament that will run from January 16 to February 7.
Speaking to Rwanda Today earlier this week, Amavubi head coach Johnathan McKinstry said: “We look forward to the championship.
“My first thoughts are that we have been grouped with some top teams, all of whom will provide a stage for our players to showcase their talents in front of many fans, both those watching from the stadiums and on television across Africa.
“There is no doubt it is a tough group; probably the toughest out of the four drawn today. Gabon and Morocco topped their groups at Chan 2014, only going out of the tournament on penalties and after extra time, respectively. Cote d’Ivoire are the reigning Afcon champions and have a strong domestic league to call up players from.
“So there is no doubt every game in the group will be a big challenge. But as sport people, we want to challenge ourselves against the best, and that is what we have the opportunity to do.”
McKinstry leads Rwanda into the Cecafa Senior Challenge this week as they seek their second Cecafa title since 1999 and the Briton his first as coach.
Next year’s will be Rwanda’s second Chan appearance since failing to go past the group stage of the second edition in Khartoum, Sudan, in 2011.
Group ‘A’ matches will be staged at Amahoro National Stadium and the opening game on February 16 will pit Rwanda against the Ivorians.
Winners of the inaugural Chan in 2009, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are in Group ‘B’ with 2011 losing finalists Angola, Cameroon and Ethiopia. The teams will be based in Butare.
Group ‘C’ has 2011 champions Tunisia, Nigeria, Niger and debutants Guinea and they will play at Nyamirambo Regional Stadium, Kigali.
Rubavu will host Group ‘D’, which has Zimbabwe, Mali, Uganda and Zambia.
Caf secretary-general Hicham El Amrani conducted the draw, held on Sunday, November 15 at the plush Kigali Serena Hotel, assisted by Rwanda captain Haruna Niyonzima and head coach of the Rwanda women’s national team, Marie Grace Umuntu.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame chaired the function, while Caf’s second vice-president Almamy Kabele Camara led the delegation from the continental football governing body. Camara is also president of the Organising Committee of Chan.