CAN 2004: historic qualification, the day Rwanda extinguished the Black Stars of Ghana
This was the selection that gave Rwanda its first qualification for CAN (2004).
Rwandan football fans will never forget the date of July 6, 2003. It was on this date that Rwanda won, for the first time ever in its history the ticket to participate in the final phase CAN.
Jimmy Gatete was the hero. This striker was able to score the only goal in the match thanks to an error by the Ghanaian central defensive led by Samuel Osei Kuffour. The crowd chanted the songs of victory after this goal at Amahoro stadium.
According to Rwandan football experts Jimmy Gatete has been called one of Rwanda’s best strikers.
Jean Butoyi, currently in charge of sport at Radio Télévision Nationale du Rwanda who was commentating on the match, told SNA that he will never forget this game. “Firstly, because this victory directly qualified Rwanda for the CAN and, secondly, since my wife had just given birth to my eldest son at 1:30 p.m. before this crucial match started. It is difficult for me to forget the two happy events that occurred simultaneously. This day will remain in my memory forever. I had the privilege of commentating on a match which qualified my country for the first time for an African Cup of Nations”.
The crowd invading the ground
The crowd invaded Amahoro Stadium lawn after the final whistle. Young and old were seen dancing and running around.
Burundi’s Jean-Marie Vianney Hicuburundi, the match referee, stated to SNA that he had never witnessed such a scene. “When I signaled the end of the match, I saw the fans descending on the lawn and the Ghanaian players, headed by their captain Kuffour, in tears. My assistants, and I, headed straight for our locker room. We had to struggle to get to the hotel. Fortunately, there were police officers to help us. All the roads were invaded by Amvubi supporters and those who were not at the stadium joined the others”
On the same night, a national holiday had been established
After this historic win, the government, parliament, the players, and all the staff gathered for a celebration. Invitations were also extended to the match referees as well as the Ghana team. Jean-Marie Vianney Hicuburundi indicated that they did indeed respond, but that the party was not for them. “When we entered the room planned for this party, we noticed that Ghana was not present and we made the decision to leave. As referees, we should not participate in this celebration in the absence of Ghana”.
The Amavubi got close to the quarterfinals
This Rwandan formation, which was trained by the Serb Ratomir Dujkovic, just missed qualifying for the quarterfinals of the CAN 2004.
In the first match Rwanda was defeated (2-1) by Tunisia. In the second match, Ratomir’s players drew (1-0) against Guinea and won the last group match against Democratic Republic of Congo (1-0). Rwanda is prevented from reaching the quarterfinals by a draw between Tunisia (the host country) and Guinea (the other).
With 4 points remaining, Rwanda finishes the group stage in 3rd place.
19 years later, Rwanda still lacks a second qualification to be eligible for the CAN final stage.