“If you listen to the words of You’ll Never Walk Alone , it’s like the story of our country.”
The first episode of Amazon Prime’s six-part documentary series, This Is Football , tracks the lives of Liverpool fans in Rwanda, a scenic landlocked African Republic situated amongst the Great Rift Valley where the African Great Lakes and East Africa converge. The episode charts a broader story of the country’s social and political transformation from an infamous bloody and brutal genocide to a country of hope and stability in recent decades.
Rwanda was colonised first by Germans in the late 19th century and then Belgians in the early 20th century, forging strong divisions in society primarily between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Approximately 1 million people were slaughtered in 100 days in the Rwandan genocide. Tensions escalated in the early 1990s and by 1994 had descended into extreme violence and massacre of the marginalised Tutsis.
Football is one of the great unifying phenomena in our world. Often noted for its quasi-religious following, football is undoubtedly a vehicle for hope, unity, identity-building and reconciliation, no more so than in this beautiful country whose current generation lives in the aftermath of such unforgiving horror.
I know that history will look back upon this period of time as one of the most progressive and successful in Rwandan football
“You’ll Never Walk Alone is something that applies to all of us in our country. We have overcome so many challenges because none of us has walked alone. However difficult things become, you have to believe that one day they will get better. The lyrics inspire people in every walk of life.”
When Rwanda beat Ghana to qualify for the African Cup of Nations finals for the first time in 2003, it brought the country together as one, providing a watershed moment in establishing solidarity and pride as those past divisions were bridged by this immense collective sporting achievement.
As one of Rwanda’s most die hard Liverpool supporters explained: “Rwandan Reds don’t ask which side you were on in the genocide, because we are all Rwandan. But above all, we are all supporters of Liverpool.”
When you talk Rwanda, it is difficult not to launch into poignant commentary on the genocide. And yet, it is important not to understate how far Rwanda has come over the past 25 years. It is a country of hope with a bright future ahead, with economic growth at 10% in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the Continent. The Rwandan Reds perfectly exemplify what is brilliant about football, and the unifying nature of the beautiful game.
We’re big fans of the Rwandan Reds and we highly recommend this episode on Amazon Prime – some of the most characterful, enthusiastic and heartwarming football fans around!