At 28, he has many achievements to be proud of and still aims for more as the current Federation of Rwanda Football Association (FERWAFA) Head of Marketing and Communications, meet Frenchman Jerome Dufourg whom we focus on our Soka Interview segment.
Jerome, who possesses a Bachelor of Business Administration, a Master of Arts in Political Science and the FIFA Master, previously worked as an Executive Director at FC Talanta, in which among his many other achievements, landed a partnership with German-based sportswear company Jako for two years starting May 2013. He has also worked in Dubai assisting the Dubai Sports Council in creating, implementing and developing the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Beach Soccer League.
Soka: Hi Jerome, have you enjoyed your time in Rwanda and how are you settling in your new job?
Jerome: Well, it’s very demanding. We’ve got no sponsor at all neither for the league or the national team, totally nothing. But you have to understand the mentality of the country and how people work. Rwanda is the eighth country I am living in but am adapting to my new environment. I thank FERWAFA president (Vincent Nzamwita) for trust and I am sure we can work together to move things forward.
Soka: What are the plans for Rwanda's top flight league in terms of marketing? Can it match the likes of Premier Soccer League (PSL) of South Africa and other competitive leagues in Africa?
Jerome: You know at the moment we have no sponsor for the league. It’s only one club that has one, that is, Rayon Sports but again, marketing has to be done also by the club not only by the federation. Plans are on the way however to market the league. Right now, we have sponsors coming in to change the face of four of our main stadiums.
The advantage we have here is that Rwanda is clean and safe everywhere, its people are polite but football is a different entity though. When you see the kind of mess in Kenya for example the mentality, wrangles and tribalism, it’s a different scenario here in Rwanda more so after the genocide. People are humble, orderly and disciplined, that tells you that there’s potential and when sponsors come on board, we shall be somewhere. Of course you can’t compare Rwanda and South Africa, one thing is that we are only 12 million in population, Kenya has 40 million and Uganda 36 while South Africa has 52 but as long as we have the right brains behind it thent it can be done.
Soka: What are some of the challenges you have faced so far compared to the ones you went through in your early stages in Kenya?
Jerome: In Kenya, corruption has messed up things. The challenge here is that everyone wants to benefit from your work which is not easy at times. There are lot of expectations because goodies are coming so everyone wants to participate which is good with the vision here. Two, we have a FERWAFA president who supports football. Big projects take time so we have to start with the short-term projects.
Soka: Going around the Rwandan stadiums, you seem to be much far better than the ones in Kenya in terms of infrastructure, what do Kenyans need to do to match your level at the moment?
Jerome: Here, the government supports football 100%. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto will not pump money to the FKF (Football Kenya Federation) or Harambee Stars simply for one reason, the whole football market in Kenya is corrupt. With good and clean managers, Kenya can achieve so much.
Soka: We have a chance to change the situation in Kenya through the upcoming FKF Elections on 5th of November, what’s your take on the exercise?
Jerome: That’s the day I have been waiting since I arrived in Kenya. I wanted to change things in Kenya in vain. We have so many candidates going for the seat but one person I really know is Shollei (Sammy). He is a succesful business man and I hope he'll win the election.
Soka: What’s your general view on other presidential candidates; Nick Mwendwa, Alila (Tom), Ken Oliech, Osumba (Ronnie), Magelo (Alex) and the others?
Jerome: I respect Mwendwa. I know Nick as a good individual and young enough. I am sure he will have good support from the second division clubs. Magelo, I like him too but he seems to have embarked on politics. Surprisingly Ken Oliech is also in the race when I thought his brother Dennis, would want to be the president at one point. It will be a tough race but hopefully the right candidate will carry the day.
Soka: You have previously worked for FC Talanta. Are you disappointed with the way the club is performing in the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League?
Jerome: Talanta is not financially instable, it’s just the officials are embezzling funds; the latest I heard is that Talanta board has been dismantled by CAK (Communication Association of Kenya). A club can’t lack funds if you have over 17.8 million sponsorship package per year. When I see the team languishing at the bottom of the table, I feel bad but management counts, it’s not about the coach or the players. Talanta is a government product so who is the failure? The government officials, the people, I just think everyone has failed to do his job.
Soka: You have seen our national team (Harambee Stars) play. Do you think we can make it to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) this time?
Jerome: I support Rwanda currently because they pay my salary and are happy with what we can do. We have a new coach who is very young and ambitious. I love Kenya and would like to go back. I have some love for the national team too but honestly you can’t make it to Gabon. You have talents for instance Wanyama (Victor), Were (Paul), I mean, these guys just speak for themselves but when the whole system has been left to the dogs, what do you expect?
I neither blame the bench nor the players but the management. It’s like you go to an exam and you have never studied, how do you expect to pass the exams? I would like Kenya to qualify but I dont think it will happen.
Soka: Rwanda hosts African Nations Championship (CHAN) starting 16th January to 7th February 2016, how is the preparation going on and what should we expect?
Jerome: Well, the government fully supports us. Such an event cannot be financed by a federation. Check the World Cup, CAN or the Euro. The budget was approved and we will be ready. CAF officials come regularly and are happy with our job done so far. We will be ready. Rwanda is not a country where you procrastinate. I personally expect to see Rwanda going all the way to the final.
Soka: Thank you Jerome for your time.