With the 35,000 capacity seater Amaharo Stadium full, and not just sitting and watching but cheering the home side to deliver, Rwanda defeated Ivory Coast 1-0 in the opening match of the African Nations Championship (Chan) on Saturday.
Moments later at the post match press conference, Rwanda’s coach Jonathan MCKinstry and team captain Jacque Tuyisenge confessed that the 12th man made the difference on a day they were also making history.
“We just made history, Rwanda has never won a game at the Chan games and this is the first time we are beating Ivory Coast,” MCKinstry said.
“Definitely the fans were a big factor in today’s result, you could see from the onset that they rallied to boys all the way and when got the lead the press lessened.”
“Especially in the final ten minutes when it looked like the guys were running out of steam, the fans pushed them and we are grateful,” he added.
Yanick Mukunzi won a free kick at the edge of the area after 14 minutes and Emre Bayisenge made no mistake with a powerful right footed shot.
No one was spared, including the Policemen and volunteers who are supposed to be neutral. “There was no way we were not going to give our best especially with the head of state watching from the stands,” Tuyisenge said.
Beyisenge who was later voted man of the match had a chance to make it 2-0 from 12 yards in the second half after Tuyisenge was fouled in the areas.But the former’s effort was saved by Badra Ali Sagnare, MCKinstry defended the APR defender.
“It was pure good goal keeping from the Ivory Coast keeper, Emre took his penalty low and wide but his effort was well ready, but most important thing is we bagged the three points.”
Rwanda’s next tie is against Gabon on January 28, with a win securing them a quarterfinal berth.