I’m a huge sports fan; I watch everything from the UEFA Champions, to the Roland Garros tennis tournament and even the World’s Strongest Man contest. So, when I learnt that the final game of the Stanley Cup ice-hockey championship was being played on Wednesday I put it in my ‘must-watch’ list. While ice-hockey might be not be big here, the love of the sport was drummed into me as a kid as I laced my skates and pretended to be the legendary Wayne Gretzky. As Canada’s national sport, playing the game was a way an immigrant like me fit into the society I found myself in. So forgive me my strange ‘un-Rwandan’ taste. Anyway, I mournfully watched the Vancouver Canucks get thrashed by the Boston Bruins 4-nil, shut off the television and went to bed. To say that a lot of the Canadian fans didn’t quietly accept the outcome is an understatement.
A riot ensured; irate fans overturned and set fire to vehicles and even Vancouver Police squad cars weren’t respected, they too were set alight. At least 140 people were reported as injured during the incident, one critically; at least four people were stabbed and 85 people were arrested for breach of peace, eight for public intoxication and eight for breaking and entering, assault or theft. What was the bill after the night of collective insanity? The early estimated losses due to vandalism, theft, and damage to property so far exceed a million dollars.
That incident made me wonder, would such a thing have happened in Kigali (and not just because the Police wield a mean cane)? I can’t see that happen. Simply, because we have bigger things to worry about and not simply the scores of an Amavubi Stars game. The priorities we have in Rwanda are economic development, security, agricultural advancement and education. We don’t have the time and energy to go crazy about a sports result. And thank goodness for that, especially with the horrible football results our national football team is getting (losing 3-1 to minnows Burundi was a new low).
Yesterday, the annual Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony was held in the Northern Province. We owe the 600,000 plus tourists that come through our borders (and leave millions behind) to these furry mammals and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never seen them in the wild. And I bet that the vast majority of The New Times readership hasn’t either. We cannot expect visitors to help us reach the tourism receipts that we wish for; we need to pull our own weight. We have some of the most breathtaking parks but we refuse to visit them. Shame on us. I have made it my personal mission to climb the Virunga’s to see the great ape, tocamp in the Akagera (ignoring the laughs of the hyenas) and take a walk high up in the canopy in Nyungwe. Enjoying and exploring our nation isn’t the monopoly of Europeans and Americans. Maybe the Rwanda Tourism Board should launch a ‘native’ tourism drive. I feel like it can do a better job in attracting Rwandans to the different sites; right now, I feel like all the concentration is still geared to attracting foreigners. This must change and the tourism board must be on the forefront of this.
Onto a totally different tangent. Today our U-17 national football team is playing at U-17 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, opening against mighty England. I’m not the god-fearing type but I will say a small prayer for our boys. I’m sure that the young boys will do us extremely proud. And even if they fail miserably I trust that no one’s car will be overturned.