Rwanda boxing team miss out on African Championships

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Boxers Vincent Nsengiyumva (L) David Nsabimana (C) and Jean-Pierre Cyiza pose for a photo after training as they prepared for the African Championships. / Sam Ngendahimana

A last minute cancellation of the national boxing team’s travel to Congo Brazzaville for this year’s African Boxing Continental Championships that got underway on Monday has angered the federation.

Originally, Rwanda Amateur Boxing Association (RABA) had planned to send a team of four boxers namely; Zakariya Niyonagize (55kg), David Nsabimana (57kg), Jean Pierre Cyiza (64kg) and Vincent Nsengiyumva (81kg) alongside coach Emmanuel Muhumuza and one official, Josette Umwali.

RABA president Vicky Kalisa told Times Sport that the number was trimmed to four instead of seven pugilists that had initially been selected because of limited resources.

However, on Saturday, the team was again reduced to three with Nsabimana being told without any reason that he will not travel to Brazzaville.

Later, coach Muhumuza was also told he will not travel with the team and instead RABA president Kalisa would travel as the coach.

All this was happening without the boxing federation officials realizing that the Ministry of Sports and Culture which was supposed to facilitate the team’s travel arrangements had other ideas.

On the very last minute, the ministry gave RABA officials news that they did not expect, that the team would not travel to Brazzaville because it was not “well prepared.”

“We don’t see any reason why we should send a team for the competition yet the boxers were not well prepared,” reads part of the letter that the Ministry of Sports and Culture sent to RABA.

Efforts to reach out to Kalisa were futile as his known phone number was switched off but RABA spokesperson, Thomas Nkusi, told this paper that news of not travelling to Brazzaville caught them by surprise.

He said, “The team was ready and we had acquired the tickets, visas and the service passports but we were stopped from travelling because it (team) didn’t have residential training camp.”

“Although it’s true that the boxers didn’t have a residential camp, they trained very well every day and we thought they were ready,” Nkusi explained.

On the issue of replacing the coach with the federation president, Nkusi noted that, “The president is well versed with the boxers, he was part of the selection process and besides, he was also going for the continental elections, which will be held after the competition.”

Nkusi admitted that travelling for the continental championships is a missed opportunity for Rwandan boxers to test themselves against the best in Africa, something that would give them valuable experience.

Rwanda and Burundi are the only regional countries that have not sent boxers in the African Boxing Continental Championships.

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