Kanombe: Rayon’s loyal servant and childhood fan

Aphrodis Hategekimana alias Kanombe wrote his name in Rayon Sports’ history when he captained the Blues to the national football league title last season, the first in nine years.
Rayon Sports skipper Aphrodis Hategikimana lifts the Primus League title last season at Amahoro stadium.  Saturday Sport/ J. Mbanda
Rayon Sports skipper Aphrodis Hategikimana lifts the Primus League title last season at Amahoro stadium. Saturday Sport/ J. Mbanda

Aphrodis Hategekimana alias Kanombe wrote his name in Rayon Sports’ history when he captained the Blues to the national football league title last season, the first in nine years.

He is the only member of the current Rayon squad to have won the league with the team more than once. The Rwandan international is one of the most experienced midfielders in the country even as he has rarely played for the national team, Amavubi Stars, in recent years.

Kanombe was born on May 23, 1989 to Basile Kanani and Alphonsine Mukamasabo in Kigali’s Kanombe suburb, Kicukiro district. He is the second-born in a family of six (four boys and two girls). His father passed away in 2006.

He is single but plans to walk his long-time girl friend (name withheld on request) down the aisle in January next year.

For anyone who has been following Rwanda’s football, especially on the local scene, it would be hard to believe that Kanombe is only 24 years old. But he is. This is a young man who started playing at the top level when he was only 16 years old.

The right-footed midfielder joined Rayon Sports in 2004 as a 16-year old, by then he was attending Imena Primary School in Kanombe, before he joined King David academy for his Ordinary Level (O’Level).

He would later move to Apred Ndera for his Advanced Level (A’Level) from where he obtained a certificate in Humanity Sciences in 2008.

But Kanombe is not just a Rayon player. “I’ve been a fan of this club for many years, I’ve supported Rayon from my childhood,” he says.

Outside Rwanda, Spanish champions Barcelona and Jose Mourinho’s English Premier League side Chelsea are the teams he supports. He says Barcelona’s duo of Iniesta and Xavi are the people he looks up to in world football.

When Rayon came calling


“From an early age, I have always loved to play football; it has always been my favourite sport. In fact, I have never tried out any other sport”, Kanombe says.


Wherever he studied he played for the school team. “I was always a key player for my school teams, unfortunately we never won any trophies,” he recalls.

Kanombe is a product of the now defunct ASPOR football academy based in Kicukiro, where he cut his teeth at a tender age.

But his dream came true in 2004 when Rayon came calling. “I could not believe it when coach (Jean-Baptiste)

Kayiranga gave me the opportunity for play for the team I had supported as a child. Thanks to him, I am now a champion, and I was captain when we won the league.”

That same year, they won the league. “It was an incredible year for me; I won a medal in my first year in the topflight league. It couldn’t have been better for me.”

The man who brought him to Rayon, Kayiranga, himself a former Rayon player, is currently at the Turbo King National Football League side Gicumbi FC and assistant coach for the Amavubi Stars.

Kanombe, the only current Rayon player who was in the 2004 trophy winning side, has never known any other team in his football career other than the Blues (apart from a one year stint in Djibouti).

“At Rayon Sports I feel at home, that is where my heart belongs. The club has given me everything possible.”

Now in his eighth consecutive season in Rayon Sports’ first team, Kanombe is the club’s longest serving player.

When he made a breakthrough as an exciting youngster at Rayon eight years ago, few would have predicted the then 16-year old would be the man to captain the Blues to their next title.

The defending champions are currently in fifth position with 16 points in the 14-team table, behind AS Kigali, APR, Kiyovu and Musanze FC.

The midfielder has since been replaced by Burundian international Fuadi Ndayisenga as Rayon Sports captain.

Faithful servant


As a result of that hunger in every player to venture into professional football away from home, in October 2011, Kanombe ‘fled’ to Djibouti where he featured for AS Ports whom he helped to the league title.

He, however, returned home in 2012 and, like the prodigal son, he was welcomed back into the Rayon fold with open arms, and the league title he later led them to was a fitting ‘thank you’ to his employers.

Apart from that short stint in Djibouti, Kanombe has been a loyal servant for Rayon Sports, unlike many other players who have come at the club only to ‘defect’ to local rivals or go AWOL in search of other opportunities across the region and beyond.

“Of course the league title is the biggest silverware I have ever won, but I have also won other trophies like the Peace Cup (2005), and the Kigali Centenary Anniversary title,” he reflects.

Last season, Kanombe also won the Rwanda Football Media Cup, Rwandafootball.com website launch cup, as well as the inaugural 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi memorial tournament.

Kanombe won his first senior Amavubi Stars cap in 2006 as an 18-year old lad and has since played in several international games, including World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers.

His last call was in the World Cup qualifier match against Benin in September.

Beyond football

“I want to run my own business when I hang up my boots, football will always be within me but I have no plan to do anything related to it after retirement”

Kanombe told Saturday Sport. He added, “I have achieved a lot through football, upon retirement it will be high time I go for a different challenge.”

The Rayon star has advice for upcoming youngsters. “What I can tell my younger brothers in the game is that they should work hard, be disciplined and be eager to learn more by the day.”

But on a downside to what would have been a near-perfect 2013 for Kanombe, the midfielder  was overlooked by Amavubi head coach Eric Nshimiyimana for the forthcoming Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup Championships in Kenya due later this month.

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