Rwanda played at the 2004 Nations Cup finals in Tunisia
Rwandan football has struggled to bridge the gap left by a lost generation but young players are now coming through to fill the void in the national team, says coach Michael Nees.
The German, who last year served as England's team liaison officer at the World Cup finals in his native country, has been slowly trying to rebuild the side and feels he is making progress.
An estimated 800,000 people, many of them teenage boys, died in the 1994 genocide in the small central African country, when Hutu militia turned on their Tutsi countrymen in a mass slaughter.
"We have a team in transition because this country lacks a whole generation of players in their mid-20s," said Nees, who took over as national coach last July.
"As the more established team members have got older, we've had to look for much younger talent to integrate into the side and I think it's only now we are coming out of the valley.
Rwanda were surprise participants at the 2004 Nations Cup finals in Tunisia, only narrowly failing to reach the quarter-finals in a performance hailed as a fairytale for a
country still recovering from its traumatic experience.
Most of that side no longer compete internationally, however, and Nees has had to turn to players from the country's under-17 and under-20 teams to fill the gap.
"There has been no seamless transition, it has been a forced process because of the lost generation," said Nees.
Rwanda have returned to international action in the African Nations Cup qualifiers but lost their first two games and are bottom of their group standings.
The team head to Equatorial Guinea for their latest Group Five qualifier in Malabo on Saturday with what their coach describes as "a good mix of professionals and locals".
Only three players return from Europe for the game -- Oliver Karekezi of Swedish team Helsingborg, Henri Munyaneza of St Truiden in Belgium and Greek-based Fritz Emeran -- leaving the bulk of the responsibility to a new generation.
"The challenge is to integrate the talented youngsters we have identified with the professionals," added Nees.
"We've had two weeks of preparation and a chance to look a whole lot of new players."
Nees's African experience is a far cry from his first-hand glimpse of the England set-up at the Word Cup finals, where he acted as the go-between between the Football Association and the German World Cup organisers.
Nees, who was a volunteer, said his role was to work with the England team's administration, "to avoid potential problems and to make sure everything went along smoothly".
As a coach, he was given what he terms "a massive insight into how a big team like England operates and how such a big coach creates an environment for his team".
Nees said he was impressed with Sven Goran Eriksson's calm demeanour.
"His way of dealing with people and the way he guided his team in a calm, relaxed and well-organised manner was fascinating.
"I use some of the ideas now. You are always learning in this game. When I came to Rwanda we had to start from scratch.
But I have been most impressed with the players, who are disciplined, who have focus and are not spoilt. There are none that behave like superstars."