Turning Rwanda into a major football powerhouse in Africa while playing a distinctive, attacking brand of football will be Jonathan Brian McKinstry’s top priority after he takes over the reigns of Amavubi Stars, the Northern Irishman said when he was unveiled as the head coach of the national team on March 23 in Kigali.
McKinstry, who is the youngest qualified coach in the world at 29, beat three other shortlisted candidates to the top football job in the country, including Engin Firat (Germany/Turkey), Hans Michael Weiss (Germany) and Jose Manuel Ferreira de Morais (Portugal).
Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa) president Vincent Nzamwita told a news conference at the unveiling ceremony that McKinstry has been tasked with winning the 2016 African Nations Championship (Chan), due in Kigali on January 16 to February 7.
“He was picked from among the four shortlisted coaches and we believe he is the right man fit to take Rwanda to the next level,” Nzamwita said. “He will have our support and we believe the journey that we have started with him will be successful.
“We have given him a one-year contract, which will see him take charge of the national team until 2016 Chan finals due in Rwanda and thereafter we will see if we can give him a long-term contract or not.”
McKinstry said: “Since my time with Sierra Leone, I have been seeking an opportunity that would, with my input, have potential for tangible and sustained success.
“In Rwanda, I believe I have found that opportunity, and I’m pleased to have been tasked with the responsibility of guiding the Amavubi forward into Chan 2016, which will be hosted in Rwanda, as well as in pursuit of qualification for Afcon 2017 and the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”
In just 16 months at the helm of Sierra Leone, McKinstry had led the team to their highest ever Fifa rankings when, in August 2014, they were seventh in Africa and 50th in the world. With their lowest global ranking having been 172nd in 2007, the achievement was hailed by Fifa.com as “remarkable.”
Then 27, McKinstry was the youngest active coach in international football.
As Rwanda coach, McKinstry was clear on the road ahead, saying: “I can assure the thousands of Amavubi supporters who fill the stands for every game and those further afield that the players, technical staff and myself will give everything within our power to bring you success.
“We will work tirelessly to develop the Amavubi into a major force within African football, playing a distinctive, attacking brand of football that in time will become synonymous with Rwandan football.”
On the role of the supporters in achieving that success, he said: “I know that our supporters will play their part in the development of this new era in Rwandan football by ensuring that we make our home a fortress through their vocal support at every home game, creating an atmosphere that helps to drive our Amavubi Stars on to glory.”
McKinstry debuts at Amavubi on Sunday in a Fifa friendly match with Zambia at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.