Mutakwampuhwe, the ace of Rwanda’s women volleyball

If you take trouble to follow Rwandan volleyball, you probably know who she is. APR women volleyball club’s Brigitte Mutakwampuhwe is one of the most experienced players in the country after eight successful years at the top.
Brigitte Mutakwamuhwe has won four league titles in eight years with APR. Saturday Sport/ Courtesy.
Brigitte Mutakwamuhwe has won four league titles in eight years with APR. Saturday Sport/ Courtesy.

If you take trouble to follow Rwandan volleyball, you probably know who she is. APR women volleyball club’s Brigitte Mutakwampuhwe is one of the most experienced players in the country after eight successful years at the top.

After captaining the military side to four league titles among other trophies, Mutakwampuhwe still has the same hunger for success as she did eight years ago.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time ever since I joined APR in 2007. I remain as ambitious as ever, I want to win more with my club and possibly with the national team too,” she said in an exclusive interview with Saturday Sport.

Mutakwampuhwe was born on May 16, 1990 to Evariste Mpambara and Marie Louise Mukagaga in Karongi district (formerly Kibuye), Western Province. She is the sixth born in a family of eight children (three boys and five girls).

The 23-year-old attended Birambo primary school in Karongi and joined ESA (Ecole Secondaire Assomption) Birambo for her Ordinary level (O’level) studies before switching to Saint Joseph Kabgayi for her Advanced level (A’level) from where she earned a certificate in 2008.

The right attack player holds a bachelors degree in Finance, which she attained from Independent University of Rwanda (ULK) last year.

The former APR captain, Mutakwampuhwe has her own source of inspiration, “I got interest and inspiration to play volleyball from Lawrence Yakan Guma (national team and former APR player). He is a real role model in Rwandan volleyball.”

Early days

Mutakwampuhwe used to play basketball at school up to senior four in 2006 when she decided to take up volleyball as a full time hobby.

“My elder brother (Jean Paul Dusenge), who was a former APR basketball club player played a big part in my decision to ditch basketball and take up volleyball,” she recalls.

In primary six, she won the provincial inter-schools’ competitions volleyball title for Western Province and a year later, when she was in senior one at ESA, she again won the provincial post primary inter-schools’ (O’Levels) title.

In 2007 and 2008 respectively, Mutakwampuhwe, a key player on her school team, won back to back  national inter-schools’ girls’ volleyball championship title with Saint Joseph Kabgayi and featured for the school’s team twice at the East African post—primary games.

She said, “I played in the FEASSA games in 2007 and we reached the final (but lost) in Mbarara, Uganda and also in 2008 in Nakuru, Kenya where we were eliminated by Kenya’s Cheptil in the semi-finals.”

League achievements

The former ESA Birambo student made her maiden appearance in the national women volleyball championship in 2006 when she was in senior four at Saint Joseph Kagbayi, featuring for the (formerly Gitarama)-based club.

“We finished fourth that season and I owe a big thank you to the then team coach Antoine Sebarinda, he played a big role in making me love volleyball and being the player I am today,” he acknowledged.

After just one season, Mutakwampuhwe, still only 17 years old, was snatched by the ambitious APR. She went on to help the team to win four league titles in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

On top of the league title, she has also won other local tournaments including; Carres d’AS, Coupe du Rwanda and Rutsindura memorial tournament.

She added, “My most memorable year is 2009, because it is the year I won the first league title of my career.” She singles out team mates; Dorcus Ndasaba and Janet Wanja (both Kenyan players) for special mention as they helped her to improve her game.

She again captained APR in 2011 as the team retained all but the league title that was won by Rwanda Revenue Authority. They won coupe du Rwanda, Carres d’As and Rutsindura memorial tourney.

In 2012, she stepped down as the team captain; the year that APR regained the league title and retained Coupe du Rwanda for their third time in a row. Last year as team captain again, she helped APR defend the league title.

Mutakwampuhwe featured for junior national volleyball team from 2006 to 2008 and made her debut for the senior team in 2011. She was named Most Valuable Player for the 2010 season.

Dreams and retirement plans

“Before retiring, I, like anyone else, would wish to play on a professional level in a more competitive league. Regionally, the Kenyan league would do for me and turn me into a better player,” she admitted.

The former Saint Joseph Kabgayi star went further, “I have enjoyed every moment in my career so far and I am still enjoying, so I don’t plan to retire tomorrow or after tomorrow.”

“If I am able to stay fit enough, physically and mentally, I want to play on until I am 30 years and then go into something else.”

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