Meet Rwanda’s women national football team - the ‘She-Wasps’

THE national women football team, ‘She-Wasps’ eliminated Kenya in the first round of the 2014 African Women’s Championship (AWC) qualifiers to set a second round gigantic clash against seven-time winners of the tournament, Nigeria’ Super Falcons. Grace Nyinawunumtu’s team won the first leg 1-0 at Stade de Kigali on February 16 before losing the second leg 2-1 in Nairobi, but progressed to the next stage on the away goals rule.  The team returned to continental football after five years and didn’t disappoint as they dominated their Kenyan counterparts at all fronts in the first leg.   Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi met with the She- Wasps’ ‘first eleven’ during their preparations at La Palisse  Nyandungu before the second leg and they talked to her about their athletic career in a sport considered by many to be a man’s game. 
Sifa Gloria Nibagwire - Captain
Sifa Gloria Nibagwire - Captain

THE national women football team, ‘She-Wasps’ eliminated Kenya in the first round of the 2014 African Women’s Championship (AWC) qualifiers to set a second round gigantic clash against seven-time winners of the tournament, Nigeria’ Super Falcons. Grace Nyinawunumtu’s team won the first leg 1-0 at Stade de Kigali on February 16 before losing the second leg 2-1 in Nairobi, but progressed to the next stage on the away goals rule. 

The team returned to continental football after five years and didn’t disappoint as they dominated their Kenyan counterparts at all fronts in the first leg.  

Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi met with the She- Wasps’ ‘first eleven’ during their preparations at La Palisse  Nyandungu before the second leg and they talked to her about their athletic career in a sport considered by many to be a man’s game. 

Sifa Gloria Nibagwire - Captain

Besides being a defender she is also a senior-six student at Solidarity Academy where she majors in accounting.

Regarding how she is able to balance school and football, she said: “I study half a day and trainings for AS Kigali Football Club start at 4:30pm so I have enough time to study and play football.”

She said that she used to escort her elder brother to the football field carrying water for him and this is where she derived her desire to play football. 

“I enjoyed the way they played so one day I decided to play with boys my age. They would not bully me because they were scared of my brother,” she recalled.

Although the 20-year-old is studying accounting, her sole wish is to become a professional footballer. 

“I have played football for the last five years and I’m hoping to become a great player one day. I know there are many misconceptions about women playing football but I want to tell the young girls out there that the sport is for both genders. I have seen women football players like Marta of Brazil earn a lot of respect. Being a football player is a profession like any other,” Nibagwire said. 

As captain of the team she said they are united and always aim at winning as a team. “We are like a family and this has helped us on and off the pitch.”  

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Judith IngabireGoalkeeper 

The 20-year-old Ingabire is a senior six student at Solidarity Academy and goalkeeper for AS Kigali Football Club. 

She started playing football in primary school although she never thought she would be a goalkeeper.  “I started playing for professional football clubs at the age of 14. I’m lucky my parents have been supportive of my football career although they always advise me to continue with school. I know many girls who would want to play football but miss out because their parents believe it’s not a girl’s sport,” Ingabire explained.

She further said that there is need to address the barriers that limit girls from becoming football players. “For instance there have been excuses that when girls are in their menstruation period, they can’t play. Unless one is cramping so badly and they have painful abdominal pains then they can’t train or play. But if you have no pain, we always play,” Ingabire said.

Ingabire said that before she was taken on as a goalkeeper she was a defender. “In case my career as a goalkeeper ends, I would want to become a coach for goalkeepers.”Ingabire said.

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Alice Kalimba-midfielder

The 17-year-old Kalimba is the midfielder of the She-Wasps. She is also a senior six student at Solidarity Academy studying electrical engineering.

She is the last born in her family and started playing football at a very tender age.

“I started playing for my primary school thanks to the support of my parents. I have many friends whose parents never let them play yet it’s their passion. My parents know what my main goal in life is, and that is to become a professional football player and play for the great teams in Europe so that my country can be known for having great female football players,” Kalimba said. Besides supporting Rayon Sport locally, she supports Arsenal on the international scene. 

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Marie Jeanne Nyirahafashimana  - Striker
Besides being a striker for the national team, the 19-year-old Nyirahafashimana is also a striker for the AS Kigali Football Club. 
“I think I took on football as a sport because I’m a tomboy. As a girl, I have never worn dresses or skirts so I associated with boys more than girls - even when playing football. The girls I associated with ended up coming to play football with me and this happened until I joined secondary school. I played for school teams and I think because of my perseverance, today I’m playing for the national team and it is a good place to be if you wish to become a great professional player,” Nyirahafashimana disclosed.
She is a Chelsea fan and Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Jr is her favourite football star. 
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Clémentine Mukamana - Defender
The 19-year-old Mukamana is a defender for both the national team and AS Kigali Football Club. 
“This is the second time I have played for the National Team. I first played for the team when I was fifteen years old. I believe I’m lucky although I had to work very hard to make it to this team.” 
“I’m currently pursuing a course in accounting at Solidarity Academy and I’m hoping to go further with my studies even though I’m playing football. I need something to fall on when my career ends,” Mukamana said.
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Alice Niyoyita- Striker 
The 17-year-old is a senior six student of Remera Rukoma and majors in Math, Economics and Computer science. She was the scorer against Kenya in the first leg of the African Women’s Championship (AWC) qualifier at Amahoro Stadium two weeks ago. 
“As a child I always loved playing football and in primary three, I played football with boys far older than myself and it did not intimidate me. Football is great because you can achieve a lot. For instance I’m now playing for the national team. It gives me great joy when I wear the national jersey, it’s a dream come true,” Niyoyita said.  
Niyoyita plays for Kamonyi Women Football Club that came in third in the 2013 Women National Football League.  
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Anne Marie IbangaryeStriker 
Ibangarye is currently offering a course in electricity at Solidarity Academy where she will graduate this year. 
She decided to take on football while at Gatwaro Primary School in Kibuye when she was just ten years old. 
“Although they used to punish me for playing football at home, today my parents support me. I remember they used to beat me and I would go back to play the following day. But today I can openly say my actions were worth it. Today, wearing the national jersey is a reflection of what I wanted as a child. I can say, I’m now living my childhood dream,” Ibangarye said.
The 18-year-old Ibangarye added that her most trying moment is if a game ends and hasn’t scored a goal. 
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Marie Claire  Uwamahoro-  Defender
The 20-year-old Uwamahoro started playing for football clubs in 2008.
She recently signed with AS Kigali Football Club after playing for Remera Rukoma Football Club for two years. 
“I decided to play defense and one day I want to be as good as Patrice Evra of Manchester United,”Uwamahoro said. 
The shy Uwamahoro is a senior six student at Solidarity Academy.   
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Djamila Abimana- Defender  
The 23-year-old Abimana is also a defender for Remera Rukoma Football Club. 
“My parents felt that football was not a girl’s sport but I insisted. I would sneak out of the house in the evening to go to a football pitch nearby home to play. But today they are happy. So I would love to encourage Rwandan girls that when you enjoy a sport, embrace it, it will pay off in the long run. If I had not played football, I would not be interviewed today,” Abimana said heartily.
She added: “If my career comes to an end, because it does so as you grow older, I will take on coaching especially here in Rwanda. Girls out there need to take on the sport just like we did.”
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Shadia UwamahirweMidfielder 
Uwamahirwe is also a midfielder for AS Kigali, the 2013 champions of the National Women Football league.
Besides being a student at Solidarity Academy pursuing a diploma in electricity, she is also a midfielder for the She-Wasps. 
“I was the only girl in my family so no one at home cared that I was interested in playing football. Besides seriously taking on professional football, I first played for my home team from Rubavu district called Inyange Football Club and I have not looked back since. I’m now looking forward to becoming an international football star like Nani,” Uwamahire said.
The 17-year-old Uwamahirwe is a supporter of Manchester United. 
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Sophie Niyomugaba - Striker
The 17-year-old Niyomugaba is a senior- five student at Solidarity Academy where she is pursuing a diploma in accounting. 
“Leaving my passion for football aside, on many occasions I have been confused for a boy. So most people thought that this is why I loved football. I didn’t let such misconceptions discourage me from taking on my passion. I want to advise girls that they should not be discouraged by stereotypes like ‘girls are not supposed to do this and that’ because they are missing out,” Niyomugaba advised. 
She is also a side striker for AS Kigali Football Club. 
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Other players of the She-Wasps are;
Clementine Ayigeneye (AS Kigali), Edith Umulisa (AS Kigali), Clementine Mururonkwere (AS Kigali), Janvuere Mukadusenge (AS Kigali), Florence Imanizabayo (Remera Rukoma), Fatuma Kankindi (Inyemera) and Oscarie Iragena, Helene Uwizeyimana (AS Kigali), Gloria Nibagwire [AS Kigali], Nadia Uwineza (AS Kigali), Yvonne Mukamaliza (Inyemera), Saida Ntagisanimana (AS Kigali) and  Claire Umulisa (Winners).
 

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