Tottenham Hotspur Academy this week played host to the Rwanda Under-17 national team as part of their preparations for the up-coming FIFA U17 World Cup in Mexico.
It is the first time the African nation have qualified for a FIFA World Cup at any level and represents a significant landmark in their history.
This new generation of players were born amidst the atrocities of a genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 – 17 years ago.
After getting past some of Africa’s most established football nations, including Egypt and Ivory Coast, this young Rwanda side made the historic achievement.
The World Cup begins on June 18 and they have been drawn to face Canada, Uruguay and England in the group stages.
Our Under-18 group took on the Rwandans in a fiercely contested warm-up match at Spurs Lodge on Wednesday that finished 0-0, although the visitors did strike the bar and forced a number of fine saves from goalkeeper Jonathan Miles late on.
It gave many of the young African players their first opportunity playing against European opposition, as well as the chance to experience the top-class facilities on offer at a Premier League Academy.
H.E. Ernest Rwamucyo, the Rwandan High Commissioner, said:
“Qualifying for a World Cup for the first time means a lot to the people of our country and represents a new generation of hope. We have worked hard to dig ourselves out of a tragic history and rebuild the country in all aspects; the economy, sports and culture, living and working together, promoting peace and stability, creating a new Rwanda.
“These young players are used to playing without facilities, making their own equipment and kicking around in dust, so for them to play at Tottenham Hotspur in state-of-the-art facilities is inspiring and builds their confidence.
“Rwandans are very close followers of English football and I know there are many fans of Spurs. On behalf of Rwandans I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Tottenham Hotspur for the support they have given us as we prepare for the World Cup.”
Richard Tardy, Head Coach, Rwanda U17 national team, said:
“We have enjoyed coming to London and playing against a team like Spurs. For us it is important because we play against England in the first game at the World Cup, so here we can discover more about English football. It was good for our team spirit to get a draw here, now we travel to Germany for further preparations and hopefully we will be ready in a month’s time.
“These players were born in 1994, the year of the genocide, so it is incredible that 17 years on they can be playing in a World Cup.”