Mugiraneza: Football helped me realise my dreams

HE is young and has the talent. He is a celebrity and  one of the great footballers in the country.
Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza (L)is a key member for APR and the Rwanda national team. Saturday Sport / T. Kisambira
Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza (L)is a key member for APR and the Rwanda national team. Saturday Sport / T. Kisambira

HE is young and has the talent. He is a celebrity and  one of the great footballers in the country. From  football, Mugiraneza has been able to buy his own residential house, built one for his mother,  bought a car and set up a private business—he owns a super market in Nyamirambo. He says, “I feel proud that I have been able to build a good house for my mother because I always felt like I owed her that.”

On top of fending for himself and his elderly mother, he  also takes care of his three younger brothers.

But despite this spiral of achievements he is humble and yet ambitious.  That summerises the character of .APR and Amavubi Stars midfielder Jean Baptiste ‘Miggy’ Mugiraneza one of the key  senior players on the local football scene. 

“I plan to start my university studies this year, which I will combine with playing football. I can’t live without football because it has helped me realise my dreams,” he revealed his plans in an interview with Saturday Sport.

He is also a man in love.  The  25-year-old is engaged to his long-time girl friend Fausta Gisa, a presenter on Amazing Grace Christian radio, “I am not single anymore; I and my fiancée are planning to tie the knot later this year.”

The former Kiyovu SC player, a club he supported while growing up at Mumena, confesses he has a soft spot for his current team, while in Africa; he supports DRC’s giants TP Mazembe. In English Premier League, which has become so popular in Rwanda, Miggy likes the reigning champions Manchester United and in Spain, his team is Real Madrid.

Miggy was born in 1988 to François Mbonyingabo and Pascasie Banderembako  in Nyamirmbo sector (Mumena cell), Nyarugenge District, Kigali City.

He is the fifth born in a family of nine (six boys and three girls). His father passed away in 2008 but the mother is still alive.

The hard-tackling midfielder, who turns 26 next month, attended Kivugiza primary school and he joined ESI Nyamirmbo for his ordinary level (O’level) studies before switching to SEGI Rwampara for his advanced level (A’level) studies where he obtained a certificate in literature in 2008

Early days

Mugiraneza says he has never played any other sport apart from football, “I remember when I was barely 10 years in grade III at Cyivugiza primary school, we won the Kigali city inter-primary schools’ championship.”

At his age of 14 in 2002, the lanky midfielder again won the Kigali city inter-schools’ championship title. The same year he joined La Jeunesse youth team. In 2003, he was promoted to La Jeunesse junior team.

The following year, Miggy featured and helped the youthful La Jeunesse to win the second division league title for the 2004/2005 season to gain promotion to the  first league.

The midfielder played for La Jeunesse in the top flight division for only one season before Kiyovu came calling and, as he put it, “I couldn’t turn them down because they were a team I supported as a child.”

Kiyovu signed the then 18-year-old on a two-year contract. However,  he was to spend just one of the two years with the Green Baggies before APR bought out his remaining year in a deal that brought Kiyovu Rwf20m.

Career achievements

The former U-20 star is one of the few senior players remaining at APR FC and has won four league titles, two Cecafa Kagame Cup titles and four Peace Cup tiles.

“The only player in the current squad who was at the club when I joined in 2007 is goalkeeper Jean Claude Ndoli.  The others like Hegman Ngomirakiza and Albert Ngabo, we came at the same time,” he recalls.

Since arriving at the military side six years ago, Mugiraneza helped them to CECAFA Kagame Cup in 2007 and 2010, the national league titles in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The 2008 league title was won by Atraco FC.

He did not only help giants APR win four leagues but also four Peace Cup titles in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Role in national team

The APR assistant captain has played a key role for the national teams, at all levels over the past seven years or so.

In 2004, Miggy was part of the Under-17 Amavubi team that travelled to Sweden to take part in the annual Gothia Cup, and he along with Young Africans playmaker Haruna Niyonzima, stayed there for two months undergoing professional trials. However, when things didn’t work out the pair returned home.

Mugiraneza earned his first senior national team cap in 2005 as part of the Amavubi team that competed in the 29th edition of CECAFA Challenge Cup held in Kigali.  “We had a good tournament, unfortunately, we lost 1-0 to Ethiopia in the final,” he recalls.

In 2009, he was an important member of the Under-20 team that played in  the Under-20 CAN that was staged in Kigali, and says the tournament’s opening game, Rwanda against Mali is one of his best matches of his career as the hosts beat favorites Mali 1-0.

He scored the lone goal of the match and he was named man of that match, which won him a Samsung smart phone.

Rwanda was knocked out in the preliminary round, but since then, the experienced midfielder has been a regular starter for both club and national team.

Special thanks

Still only 25 but already one of the stars in Rwandan football, Miggy attributes his rise to his current standing to former la Jeunesse coach Yves Rwasamanzi

He noted that the current Isonga FC coach played a big role in developing him as a raw talented player back in the days, “Rwasamanzi taught me how to play football in La Jeunesse youth and junior teams and I owe him a big thank you.”

Another person that he owes his success is former Amavubi Stars captain Olivier Karekezi,” he helped me a lot in various ways. He used to offer me playing kits and advised me at every opportunity—he remains one my closest friends.”

With 16 months left on his APR contract, Miggy remains convinced that he will realise every ambitious footballer’s ultimate dream of playing professional football in Europe.

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