by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
Moreover he had a rather tough draw, he lost to the event’s leading player, Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna; however, there was more than consolation.
Representing the appropriately named Vision Table Tennis Club, lining up alongside colleagues Aime Bushema, François Ishimwe and Elie Kayotare, who fulfils the role of player coach; earlier in the proceedings in Lagos, a bronze medal had been secured in the men’s event at the 2019 ITTF Africa Club Championships.
Players full of praise
Success and a major boost for Africa, a country rising from unfortunate widespread genocide. A few years ago, Rwanda was not even active on the African table tennis scene; then John Bosco Birungi assumed office as President of the Rwanda Table Tennis Federation (RTTF).
Elie Kayotare is full of admiration for the efforts of John Bosco Birungi.
“Since 2016 when a new leader took over RTTF, things have started looking up for table tennis. Now schools are supported with equipment while coaches are also sent to schools to train students. We have also organised a regional tournament which fired up interest in table tennis. Under the new leadership of John Bosco Birungi, table tennis will continue to grow and we will be able to rub shoulders with some of the best in the continent.
“We never imagined we could mount the podium in our first outing at the African Club Championships and it is a good feeling; with this feat, the Ministry of Sports will give more support to table tennis. Our federation has indeed tried to raise the fortunes of the sport and we hope this performance in Lagos will bring good tidings to the sport in Rwanda.” Elie Kayotare
Likewise François Ishimwe concurred with his colleague.
“Coming to Lagos and playing against some of the best players in Africa has given me confidence that with more practice I can be among the best in the continent. I am particularly excited about meeting my best player in Africa, Quadri Aruna, who has been an inspiration to a lot of us. He is such a humble player whose attitude on and off the table has been motivating to us.” François Ishimwe
Delighted players and of course John Bosco Birungi, was more than pleased.
“As President of RTTF, I’m happy that in our first major continental event we are going home with the bronze medal. I’m extremely proud of the boys! This is a great achievement and is a result of the hard work which RTTF has put into the game over the past three years. And it’s something that the younger kids in Rwanda who are starting to learn about the game can look up to as they develop.”John Bosco Birungi
At 43 years of age, John Bosco Birungi is taking a bold step to breathe life into table tennis in Rwanda.
Since assumption of office on October 2016, he has worked tirelessly to revive the fortune of the sport in the East Central African nation. Apart from using his resources, John Bosco Birungi’s ingenuity has given the sport a leap in Rwanda.
The President of Rwanda Table Tennis Federation (RTTF), John Bosco Birungi is an astute finance and investment expert. He has made the sport attractive to young people in Rwanda; also he is the founder of “Vision Youth Group”, a non-profit organisation that has a football club and a table tennis club. Birungi has shown that Africa is indeed blessed with creative and quality leaders that can turn things around in sport.
From 2016 to 2019, Birungi has streamlined governance in sports administration as a model for Rwanda, through the setting up of a constitution and other governance guidelines like internal rules and regulations and an Executive Committee.
He has established a strong relationship with the African table Tennis Federation (ATTF) and ITTF, training of coaches and umpires.
Under his watch, development has become a priority as players and coaches from Rwanda have embarked on two training courses in China in 2018 and 2019 with 10 men and seven women involved.
For the first time, Rwanda hosted an Hopes and Cadet Challenge Week in 2019; also they received equipment donations.
Moreover, to engage the players, an official national table tennis league started in 2018, while Rwanda had organised and participated in tournaments.
In their yearly calendar, RTTF now hosts four major national tournaments which include, Genocide Memorial TT Tournament, The Chinese Ambassador’s Cup, National Ranking Tournament and the National League. Additionally, in 2018, RTTF hosted the Eastern Africa ITTF-Africa junior event.
To ensure private sector participation, RTTF under the leadership of Birungi has managed to attract a number of local sponsors including two corporate sponsors for tournaments (a bank and a telecom firms); their biggest sponsor remains the Chinese Embassy in Kigali.
After the end of his first term in office, Birungi was again unanimously elected as RTTF President by the eight clubs that form the association.
A forward-looking Birungi is not carried away by the strides RTTF made under his leadership and to exceed what they had done, Birungi unveiled a five-year the strategic roadmap with focus on player development, facility development, training of coaches and umpires and acquiring equipment.
He also said that there will be a special focus on Para Table Tennis.
“We are proud of what we have achieved in the last three years. New clubs, new initiatives and more players are emerging through different training programmes for children at the centres of excellence. The future of table tennis in Rwanda is bright. We will never rest on our laurels.” John Bosco Birungi
Birungi emphasises that the achievements registered in the sport so far is proof that his federation is on the right path.
Under the Birungi leadership, RTTF and the sport at large has now been recognised by the Ministry for Sports and Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee following. Now, table tennis is one of the most active sports in Rwanda with several groundbreaking initiatives.
“The strides we have made are not about or because of me, they are a result of hard work from all the committee members. I thank each of them for their commitment and contribution.” , John Bosco Birungi
Among the major goals in the newly established strategic plan, Rwanda looks to become one of Africa’s top ranked table tennis nations, and have two players among the best five on the continent.