In 1994, Fabien was nine years old. His favourite sport was football and his favourite food was egg and chips. But sadly when the world cup happened in the US that year, Fabien was dead. He was a Tutsi and after April 6th that year, the madness descended. He had some family left, because they gave his profile details to the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, and that’s where I read them recently.
In 1994 my youngest son was born on April 11th. In July Roberto Baggio missed the penalty in the California sun that gave Brazil the 1994 World Cup. Baggio was ‘the divine ponytail’ but in the end, he choked. Irish hopes had been high after the euphoria of the 1990 World Cup in Italy. But we faded in the heat and humidity of Florida, despite a famous win against Italy. So a nation sighed. But in central Africa, they had a lot worse to deal with.
If I’m really honest, I was probably more interested in 1994 in the World Cup than I was in Rwanda. I saw the insane scenes on TV and I suspect I thought ‘It’s a long way away, somewhere in Africa’. Terrible but a long way away. But in the middle of it all, a kid called Fabien died in an ugly and orchestrated genocide.
I did my historical homework before coming to Rwanda on this volunteering stint. And while I expected the genocide museum to be a tough visit, I feared it could be worse than it was. But I hope Fabien sticks in my mind. Even if I can’t really comprehend what happened in that year of highs and lows. Fabien would have been 30 this year, he might have been playing centre-half for his local team.
But traveling along the roads of rural Rwanda this week, I can still see kids playing football in their bare feet on dusty roadside patches. Somehow, life goes on for those who remain. I still can’t really understand what happened in ’94, but I hope I remember Fabien when this trip to Africa ends.