Football transcends barriers and borders. It’s the sport everyone understands regardless of their tribe or race. Former Rwanda captain, Olivier Karekezi, has admitted that football has helped heal wounds in Rwanda in the wake of the Genocide against Tutsis 23-years ago.
The unfortunate incident remains the darkest period in the history of the landlocked country after thousands of lives were lost, but football which remains the most popular sport has served one of the major tools to heal wounds and unite the country.
Karekezi has said that football has been key to surpassing obstacles and borders.
“It’s the language everyone understands regardless of their tribe or race. It is the spirit of unity, love and peace. Football can unite even the worst of enemies and has been used as reconciliation in broken societies. However, if people have used Fair Play, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi wouldn’t have happened,” who hanged his boots two years ago after a career that saw lace his boots for more than 10-years for Amavubi.
“On the occasion of the 23rd anniversary, I have been healed through football. I have travelled around the World and football has helped the country move from its sad and difficult past. I wasn’t sure of what to expect in future after the 1994 incident”, he added.
Rwanda began a weeklong commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of the Genocide last Friday (7 April 2017) and all economic and political activities have been put on hold as a mark of respect to the persons who lost their lives.
“I was there watching my mother (Adele Kayirangwa) and my two elder brothers (Aimable Ryamugema and Eric Gatera) die. I will never forget that but I had to move on. It was hard for me, seeing my mother and brothers die in my presence but football has played a key role in forgiving and moving forward”, Karekezi recalled.
“I survived playing football because a coach took me after my family was killed. It was not easy.
“Through football, I’ve been able to buy what I wanted like house, car and going to play abroad. I can support families. Football has been so good to me,” said the forward who captained Rwanda at their first and only Africa Cup of Nations appearance in Tunisia in 2004.
“To my fellow sportsmen and women, we can jointly work towards giving a meaningful life to genocide survivors and educate people on the effect of genocide to humans.
“The legacy of genocide touches almost every aspect of life for survivors. In addition, to recurring trauma, survivors face multiple difficulties. Many are impoverished and face complex health problems,” concluded Karekezi, an iconic figure in Rwandan sports circles.
Born in 1983, Karekezi who currently lives in Sweden made over 50 appearances for Amavubi.