Africa We Want

RWANDA COACH SPITTLER: DREAMS GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO BUILD ON

Torsten Spittler has experienced life in many different countries and continents during his career. The Augsburg native started out as a regional coach in his home state of Bavaria before moving on to the German Football Association (DFB) and German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB). His work has taken him to nations as diverse as Nepal, Malaysia, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Oman, Bhutan and Myanmar, where he served in various roles including coach, talent development expert and technical director. By FIFA

German boss speaks to FIFA about Rwanda’s flying start under his leadership and how he has immersed himself in the country’s culture. Spittler speaks exclusively to FIFA about his role

In November 2023, the 62-year-old’s latest adventure led him to Rwanda, where he has already tasted success as head coach of the national team. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Spittler discusses his work in Rwanda, the formidable challenge of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 26™, the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, and much more.

FIFA.com: How did your contact with Rwanda come about? A number of German coaches have taken on this role before you…

Torsten Spittler: They effectively got in touch with me via Bayern Munich, who agreed a partnership with Rwanda some time ago. The football association asked them about a possible coach for the national team. A few people at Bayern know me and my professional experience, so they recommended me and that got the ball rolling. A week or so later I was in Kigali.

German coaches used to have a certain reputation overseas, but that has suffered a little as the national team’s results have deteriorated. For many years the DFB had an international office that connected foreign associations with German coaches who had experience abroad. That’s how a lot of German coaches ended up going to places like Rwanda.

Your first matches as Rwanda’s head coach have yielded some promising results, with a 0-0 draw against Zimbabwe and a sensational 2-0 win over favourites South Africa in 2026 World Cup qualifying. What did you take away from those games?

I started my role just before those two matches, which meant my preparations for them weren’t ideal. I then sat down with my coaching staff who, unlike me, knew the players inside out, and we analysed and organised the squad together. We started with 30 guys and focused in particular on giving local players a chance to prove themselves before the overseas players arrived and we finalised the squad.

After the games I learned that the team hadn’t previously won a competitive match in almost three years. Despite that, it must be said that we deserved those results. We could even have won against Zimbabwe, as we had a big chance to score in the closing stages that we sadly couldn’t convert.


Benin, your next World Cup qualifying opponents in June, are coached by your compatriot Gernot Rohr. In November, he told us he rated Rwanda as formidable opponents. Do you have any contact with him?

The DFB’s international office I mentioned earlier often hosted joint meetings between coaches, so I know Gernot Rohr personally. We haven’t been in touch with each other yet, simply because there hasn’t been time. It probably doesn’t make much sense right now, seeing as we’re playing each other next [laughs], but I’m sure we’ll keep in regular contact after our match and help each other out, too.

Mr Rohr also told us how much his time in Africa has shaped him as a person. What has your experience been in your various roles?

You get to know all the different cultures, of course, and in the process you learn that people deal with certain situations perhaps a little differently to what you’re used to. That inevitably influences your own actions, your opinions and even shapes your personality – especially if, as in my case, you don’t just engage with the team but also take an interest in the country as a whole.

How would you describe Rwanda as a country, and how would you gauge the mood there after your successful start as national team head coach?

Before I arrived, I understandably did a lot of reading about the country, and came across an article dubbing Rwanda “the Singapore of Africa”. The Rwandan government sees Singapore as a kind of role model for how they want to tackle things, and I have to say – it really is true. It’s extremely safe and exceptionally clean here. On the last Saturday of each month they have a kind of ‘clean-up day’. There’s hardly any traffic on the road on those days because people are encouraged to stay home and tidy and clean up their neighbourhood. There are lots of rules here that seem to be very positive for the country. The climate is also very comfortable all year round, and there’s greenery everywhere you look.


Benin, your next World Cup qualifying opponents in June, are coached by your compatriot Gernot Rohr. In November, he told us he rated Rwanda as formidable opponents. Do you have any contact with him?

The DFB’s international office I mentioned earlier often hosted joint meetings between coaches, so I know Gernot Rohr personally. We haven’t been in touch with each other yet, simply because there hasn’t been time. It probably doesn’t make much sense right now, seeing as we’re playing each other next [laughs], but I’m sure we’ll keep in regular contact after our match and help each other out, too.

Mr Rohr also told us how much his time in Africa has shaped him as a person. What has your experience been in your various roles?

You get to know all the different cultures, of course, and in the process you learn that people deal with certain situations perhaps a little differently to what you’re used to. That inevitably influences your own actions, your opinions and even shapes your personality – especially if, as in my case, you don’t just engage with the team but also take an interest in the country as a whole.

How would you describe Rwanda as a country, and how would you gauge the mood there after your successful start as national team head coach?

Before I arrived, I understandably did a lot of reading about the country, and came across an article dubbing Rwanda “the Singapore of Africa”. The Rwandan government sees Singapore as a kind of role model for how they want to tackle things, and I have to say – it really is true. It’s extremely safe and exceptionally clean here. On the last Saturday of each month they have a kind of ‘clean-up day’. There’s hardly any traffic on the road on those days because people are encouraged to stay home and tidy and clean up their neighbourhood. There are lots of rules here that seem to be very positive for the country. The climate is also very comfortable all year round, and there’s greenery everywhere you look.


Understandably, our two recent results – particularly the victory over South Africa –sparked euphoria across the country, especially given their long wait for a win before that. In fact, I’ve heard people saying, ’Now we’ll qualify for the World Cup’. While this might not be entirely realistic in the cold light of day, dreams give you something to build on and it’s important to follow them. At the same time, however, I occasionally try and rein in the euphoria, otherwise we’ll get too carried away.

Your squad are scattered across many different leagues. How do you blend your team together into a unit? How important is it to have conversations with the players who play abroad?

We have players in Belgium, in the Ukrainian top flight, in the second and third tiers of Norwegian football, and in countries like Morocco and Kenya. Having said that, it’s not comparable with teams such as Nigeria where most of their players play in top leagues or for top clubs. We monitor our players and keep in touch with them during training camps in particular, but having a good link to their club coaches is particularly important.

Have you become aware of any players who you believe will make the leap to a top European league sooner or later?

We have a great goalkeeper in Fiacre Ntwari (TS Galaxy, South Africa), so I’m really happy about that. Ange Mutsinzi (Jerv, Norway) is a formidable centre-half who I believe could play at a higher level in Europe. I have no doubt that our left-back Emmanuel Imanishimwe (AS FAR, Morocco) also has the quality needed to make the leap.

The problem is often limits on the number of foreign players permitted in certain leagues. Clubs have to be really sure about these players to give them one of the few slots available. There are also a few players with potential in the Rwandan league. It will obviously help if we can continue to get good results that catch the eye of the European clubs. If that happens, they could take the next step at some point.


Given your previous experience, how involved are you with what happens off the pitch with issues such as creating sustainable structures, for example?

I generally think it’s helpful to have a good mix of confident youngsters and experienced heads within our squad, and we also give homegrown talents a chance to prove themselves. Looking at the bigger picture, Gerard Buscher is our technical director, and I obviously don’t want to tell him how to do his job! Having said that, the fact that I’ve amassed experience of my own in this area from various countries and that we’re in daily contact with each other may allow me to contribute one or two ideas over time.

Rwanda were unable to qualify for AFCON under your predecessor. Are you using the tournament as an opportunity to analyse your World Cup qualifying rivals Nigeria and South Africa in detail?

I’m keeping a particularly close eye on their games, but World Cup qualifying stretches over a very long period of time. We’re only playing Nigeria and South Africa next year, and my contract expires at the end of this year, so a lot could change for all the teams by then – both on and off the pitch. So while I’m not sitting in front of the TV with a notebook and pen, it’s very possible that we’ll re-watch recordings of these matches in even more detail at a later date.

Frank the coach: Let’s try this.

Who are your favourites to lift the trophy?

There have been so many surprises and exciting matches so far, but I think many of the teams are reliant on the quality of a few individual players. That makes life easier for me, because it shows that a good team performance always gives you a chance against the big sides. That’s been one of my biggest takeaways from this tournament so far. There’s no need to shy away from a challenge, because big names alone don’t automatically win tournaments. My favourites are Morocco; they’ve really impressed me so far. They’ve taken that buzz from the 2022 World Cup into this competition, and it’s definitely helping them.

Photographs courtesy of CAF and FERWAFA.

Author: MANZI
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