AFTER losing her father in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Grace Nyinawumuntu has found solace in football. The 27-year-old is without doubt Rwanda’s top female coach.
Last year, she guided AS Kigali to the national women league title and on the look of things, the team is on course of retaining the title after wrapping up the first round campaign with a healthy five-point advantage over key challengers APR.
She is also the brains behind the formation of AS Kigali, a team run and funded by Kigali City.
Born in 1983, Nyinawumuntu lost her mother when she was four and had to be raised by her grandmother together with her two younger brothers.
The atrocious slaughters started while she was at her grandie’s in Kibungo. She recalls, “We were hidden by our neighbor who later in the night advised us to run and find a place to hide because the ‘Interahamwe’ would at some point come looking for us.
“For several weeks, we masqueraded around making sure no one saw us. But at some point, we almost gave in because we were short of energy after going days without food.”
“Suddenly, there was a ray of hope when we bumped into soldiers of the then RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front).
“We were among the first people to camp at Kabarondo, the first refugee camp in Rwanda.
In spite of what she had to go through at her tender age (11 years), Nyinawumuntu has an amazingly powerful outlook on life.
In 2001 when women football was officially launched by the local football federation (Ferwafa), Nyinawumuntu was among the pioneer players. She played for ‘Urumuri’ in high school.
In 2003, she played professional football for ‘Ikipe y’Umujyi wa Kigali’ but a recurring knee injury meant that she had to quit playing.
She later took up a course ‘Faculty of Sports’ at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) and in 2007; became the first female graduate.
After her course, she took on coaching. In the same year, she attended a coaching clinic which was handled by a German specialist. A few months later, she went to Germany for a six-month coaching course and has never been the same again.
According to Nyinawumuntu, one of the secrets for her team’s shrewd performances since last year is discipline and team work.
Like other top level coaches, Nyinawumuntu does not compromise with big-headed or indisciplined players.
“At AS Kigali, discipline is a priority. I don’t care if you are the best player in the country or region, if you are not disciplined, you will not play at the club. It is as simple as that.”
She has been a great asset to local women football. Besides her AS Kigali duties, she is also the assistant coach of the national women team and an integral member of the Association of Kigali Women in Sports (AKWOS).