Basketball gave me a second family

Lessons can be learnt from the Rwandan genocide and COVID-19

RWANDA reflects during this time of the year. As a country, we have been through the most, having experienced a genocide that took almost a million lives, 26 years ago. I lost my two brothers, my father and other family members during the genocide waged against the Tutsi population. So, every year around this time, I reflect more on the lost lives of my loved ones.

Unfortunately, my compatriots and I are unable to come together to commemorate this period in Rwandan history due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Once again, my country is involved in a war, but this time around, Rwanda is not alone in this battle against a global pandemic. As I write this, people are indoors, our movement outdoors is restricted to only going to the market to buy food and other essentials. People that are allowed to work, are in services like health and security. Also, the shops close at 6 p.m., no bars and no church. It’s a lockdown!

Because of the situation now, the emphasis is on social distancing and we are not allowed to gather in big numbers. So, commemoration of the genocide is done virtually. If there is a message that has to be passed on to citizens, it’s done through public and private media houses or social media.

Patriots player Aristide Mugabe believes human kindness is what matters now. Picture: FIBA

COVID-19 has interrupted our way of life here and has stopped me from doing what I love and that is playing basketball. I am a basketball player by profession and have been playing since 2001. I have played for a couple of clubs, and I have represented Rwanda since 2011, and later captained the national team from 2013.

Basketball, in a way gave me a second family. I got to meet new brothers, and elders that showed me love and stayed with me through everything I have encountered in life. It has also contributed to my growth as a person and allowed me to contribute to my society.

After my team, Patriots Basketball Club won the league last season and qualified for Basketball Africa League (BAL), we were excited as it was a dream come true to play in a big league like this and to represent our country and region. This league was going to and will change the game on our continent, like we hear the Euroleague has done for basketball in Europe. This is going to be one of the best leagues in the world.

We began our preparations early in the year, as the league was set to start in March in Dakar, but before the launch date the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Senegal and the situation got worse. I feel bad because my teammates and I can’t play, and it has been more than a month now. However, I understand the situation. All we can do is stay ready. We work-out and stay mentally in shape in our homes so that when this pandemic is under control, we will be ready to play again.

Before I close, I would like to tell you two lessons I have learnt on the impact of COVID-19 during this time that are linked to Rwanda commemorating the genocide. Firstly, from the genocide I learnt that, hate and division among people leads to nothing, it only causes destruction. Only in coming together, is society able to build something that can’t be broken. COVID-19 require exactly the same attitude if we are going to defeat it.

Secondly, nations and humanity need to come together for COVID-19 to be controlled. It also shows the world that we need each other to live a good life. And our planet needs for us to take care of it. We should also protect each other and stay together regardless of our differences. Right now, all borders are closed, we can’t do business and we can’t travel. So, life is now dependant on staying  healthy. Money, power and our possessions can’t save us. Coming back from the ashes of the genocide has taught Rwanda the same lesson.

In parting, my message to everyone is: stay positive, this is still our year, and as the saying goes, ‘the game is not won in the first quarter’. I still hope that things will get better and we will go outside and play again. For now, let’s practice social distancing, stay healthy and try to follow what our leaders are putting on place to keep us safe. One love.

 

 

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