There are various ways through which you can give back to your country and Rwanda’s international, Faustin Usengimana has found his own through representing his motherland through football.
“Serving your nation at young age is not something that happens often, I have been lucky to serve my country in the football field since I was15. It makes me proud, humbled and honored,” Usengimana told Saturday Sport in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
Who is Usengimana?
Born in Kanombe, Kicukiro district Kigali City province on June 11, 1994 to Francois Byiringiro (RIP) and Beatrice Kabasinga, he is the first born from a family two boys.
He attended Mburabuturo Primary School, went to Rugando Secondary School for O’level studies, then APE Rugunga for senior four and Nyanza-based Espanya for the rest of secondary school pursuing History, Economics and Geography in A ‘level.
However, in September 2013, he picked an injury during Rayon Sports’ first league match of 2013/2014 season and was forced to stop studying when he was seven weeks away from finishing high school. He is planning to resume studies in January with hope to go up to university.
“The injury cost me a lot, it kept me out for the whole season and forced me to suspend my studies, yet I was only two months away from completing my A-level studies. Thank God I’m back and fully fit now,” he says.
Apart from living his dream as a footballer, the soft spoken Usengimana is also a soccer fan and supports Manchester United and Barcelona in English Premier League and Spanish La Liga respectively. He also looks up to former Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic, Brazil Captain Thiago Silva and Real Madrid center half Sergio Ramos.
The vastly talented center-half is in steady relationship with Daniella Umuraza. The young couple has been together since 2012.
The 21-year-old defender never thought of his livelihood coming from football. He has grown from a street footballer to a sensational national icon.
He featured for his former primary and secondary schools’ football teams including captaining Rugando S.S football team for two years in various competitions. He won the national inter-schools championship title in boys’ football category in 2011 with APE Rugunga.
At 15, Usengimana caught the attention of Rayon Sports and was signed by the club’s junior team in 2009. After one season with the junior team, he was promoted to topflight league senior team in July 2010.
Topflight league career
The dark-skinned tall center-half has been playing in the national football league for five seasons now since his breakthrough in 2010 including one season at Isonga FC (2011/2012) and the remaining four at the Nyanza-based Rayon Sports.
In his inaugural campaign in the national football league with Rayon, he helped the Blues to finish second runners-up as well as reaching the Peace Cup final. Not a bad debut for a 17-year-old youngster according to Usengimana.
“In my first season with Rayon in topflight league, we finished third in the league and reached the Peace Cup final. I was not a regular but I was proud of the little contribution I was able to provide,” he recalls.
Usengimana spent the 2011/2012 season on a one-year loan deal at the then newly-created Isonga FC. He helped the youthful side finish sixth in the league before returning to his parent club in July 2012.
Since rejoining the seven-time champions in 2012, the 20-year-old Usengimana has helped Rayon Sports FC to the league title, the first in ten years.
Only in the 2012/2013 season, the skillful defense kingpin helped Rayon Sports then coached by Frenchman Didier Gomez da Rosa to win four titles-the League title, the inaugural Genocide Memorial Tournament, Agaciro Development Fund tourney and rwandafootball.com Cup.
He also helped ‘Gikundiro’ to reach the quarter-finals of the 2013 CECAFA Kagame Cup in Darfur, Sudan among other silverwares claimed in that season.
“The 2012/2013 season was massive; we won everything but the Peace Cup on the local scene. I returned to Rayon Sports at the right time. What amazes me most is that I was a regular in the starting team.
Last season (2013/2014), the celebrated defender spent the whole campaign in the sickbay after picking a serious injury in the opening league match against Gicumbi FC, a game the latter lost 1-0. Usengimana returned from the career-threatening injury last September.
His current contract with Rayon Sports FC ends in July and the lad is willing to extend it for as far as possible, as long as he is still needed at the club.
Duties in national teams
Since 2009, the highly ambitious Usengimana has been a national asset and has progressed from level-to-level from the youth team to senior Amavubi Stars team in a period of only four years (2009-1013).
He was first called to the national U-17 youth team mid-2009 and served the team for two years until mid-2011. During the two years in the youth team, he captained the team to a third place finish in the 2010 Junior CECAFA championships in Eritrea as well as finishing first runners-up in the 2011 AFCON U-17 championships held in Rwanda.
He was also supposed to lead the team at the 2011 U-17 FIFA World Cup in Mexico but he had a knee injury and was only able to play 25 minutes in the three group matches.
From 2010 to 2013, Usengimana was also a pivotal member of the national junior team and has featured for the U-20 Amavubi starlets on several occasions including international friendly matches and AFCON qualifiers among others.
The soft spoken Usengimana made his breakthrough to the national senior Amavubi Stars in 2013, earning his maiden cap in March and his first match in the team came on March 24, 2013 at Amahoro stadium with Rwanda facing Mali in AFCON qualifiers. The visitors won 2-1.
However, he only has eight caps with no goal in the senior team. He’s never been in the team since September 2013 when he got an injury.
Hunger for professional football
“Maybe if I had not got injured in 2013, I wouldn’t be still around today. Before that time, I had a number of offers from European and regional clubs but am optimistic that one day an opportunity will come again.”