As Rwanda prepares to start the 2017 AFCON qualifiers that will be held in Gabon, Times Sport traces the players who led Rwanda to its debut and the only appearance at the 2004 African Cup of Nations in Tunisia.
Rwanda is in group H alongside Ghana (Rwanda was drawn with Ghana in 2003 AFCON qualifying group), Mozambique and Mauritius. The Qualifiers will start June 12th. Amavubi’s first match will be against Mozambique.
On July 6th 2003, Amavubi striker Jimmy Gatete’s lone goal against Ghana at Amahoro stadium secured Rwanda’s first ever African Cup of Nations appearance. Rwanda qualified from the group with 7 points that also included Uganda (5 points) and Ghana that finished bottom of the pool with 4 points.
At the 2004 AFCON in Tunisia, Rwanda was drawn in group A alongside hosts and eventual champions Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea and DR Congo. Rwanda lost the opening match to hosts and eventual winners Tunisia but recovered to draw 1-1 with Guinea before defeating DRC 1-0 but were eliminated in group stages with Guinea and Tunisia progressing to knock-out stages.
Today, Saturday Sport traces the players and what happened to their careers.
The Congolese-born Rwandan goalkeeper and former Marines shot stopper was first choice goalie in Tunisia. He was called up in a rush in late 2003 after former goalkeeper Mahmud Mossi was expelled from the squad due to indiscipline issues.
Upon his return from Tunisia, Nkunzingoma signed for the 14-time champions APR FC and won a series of trophies including Peace Cup, league and Cecafa Kagame Cup crowns.He later became a goalkeeping coach at APR before heading back to DRCongo where he resides today.
Hamad Katauti Ndikumana
Katauti is regarded as one of the best defenders, the country has produced. The 37-year-old featured for Rayon Sports in Rwanda in two different spells and also played professional football for different sides in Belgium and Cyprus for over a decade.
From 2011 to mid-2014, the celebrated soccer star quit football due to personal reasons before featuring for Burundi-‘s Vital’O at the 2014 Cecafa Kagame Cup in Kigali. He is currently playing for Rusizi-based Espoir FC in the ongoing National Football League.
Kiyovu FC legend Leandre Bizagwira partnered with Ndikumana at the 2004 Tunisia AFCON. After the continental meet, he continued serving Nyamirambo-based Kiyovu while pursuing studies at ULK University. He retired from football in 2008 and moved to England where he lives today with his family.
The former APR left back who used to wear number 13 continued playing for the army side until he was released in 2010. Currently, he is playing for Espoir FC alongside veterans Hamad Ndikumana and Saidi Abebi Makasi who were all in the Amavubi Stars first eleven at the 2004 AFCON in Tunisia.
Mukura Victory Sport legend Nshimiyimiana spent his whole football career playing for the Huye-based Mukura and is currently the assistant coach at the same club.
The 42-year-old midfielder was a regular for Amavubi and played for the national team for ten years, from 1995 to 2004.
He also featured for APR FC (1994-1997) and Kiyovu SC (1999/2000) before returning to APR from 2000 to 2004 when he officially retired from football and started his coaching career immediately. He is currently head coach of AS Kigali.
The former Kiyovu SC and APR FC right-back was a regular in 2004 in Tunisia and played for Amavubi Stars for a few years after. Just like his longtime best friend Léandre Bizagwira, Sibomana currently resides in England with his family.
The defender is an elder brother to Tanzania’s Yang Africans midfielder and Amavubi captain Haruna Niyonzima.
Olivier Fils Karekezi
Widely regarded as the most talented player of his generation, Karekezi played for the national team from 2002 to 2013. After the 2004 AFCON, Karekezi pursued a professional career with various Swedish sides including Helsingborgs IF (2005-2007), Hamarkameratene (2008-2008), Osters IF (2010-2011), TrelleborgsFF (2014).
The 30-year-old still remains the highest Amavubi goal scorer with 25 goals. Karekezi retired from international football in mid-2013 and got his coaching badges from Sweden last year.
Mbonabucya was the Amavubi Stars Captain at the 2004 AFCON in Tunisia and was known for his hard tackling despite being an attacking midfielder. He played for the national team until 2005.
At club level, he played for Rayon Sports, Kiyovu SC, Inter Stars (Burundi) before moving to Belgium where he featured for a number of clubs before retiring in 2009. He currently lives in Belgium where he works as youth football coach and is also a FIFA licensed agent.
Saidi Abedi Makasi
Makasi featured for Amavubi Stars from 2003 up to 2009. He is widely remembered for his goal against DR Congo in AFCON group stages in Tunisia that gave Amavubi a famous win.
At club level, he has featured for Renaissance (2001) and Rayon Sports (2011/2012) and since 2012, he features for local topflight league side Espoir FC.
Raphael Elias Manama:
The Angolan-born midfielder scored a famous free-kick goal againstTunisia in the opening match of the 2004 AFCON in Tunisia.
The soft spoken footballer spent most of his footballing career with different Belgian sides and after retirement, he stayed in Belgium where he works with youth football academies.
Jean Rémy Bitana
Born on May 5, 1983 in Rubavu (Gisenyi), the talented right-back was known for his energetic play and great crosses.
However, he ended his career in a very sad way especially to fans as he went AWOL while on a trip with the national team in Europe in 2006. The skillful defender played for Etincelles and Rayon Sports before going missing while on national duty in Netherlands. He currently lives in Belgium.
The 31-year-old striker was an unused substitute in the 2004 AFCON. Disappointed at not featuring for the national team in the biggest continental show piece, the forward kept refusing to honor invitations by the football association (Ferwafa) for international competitions to concentrate on his club level career. The veteran currently resides in Belgium.
The former Rayon Sports midfielder did play much at the 2004 AFCON in Tunisia He also played professional football for various sides in Europe and currently lives in Germany.
The former Mukura captain and APR midfielder didn’t get off the bench in the 2004 AFCON. Along with Jean Rémy Bitana, Rusanganwa went AWOL on national duty with Amavubi Stars in Europe in 2006 and currently lives in Belgium.
Jean Paul Nsengiyumva:
Commonly known as ‘Laro’, Nsengiyumva was an unused substitute at the 2004 AFCON, He featured for Intare FC and APR FC after the 2004 show piece. He currently lives in Bujumbura and works as youth football coach in Burundi.
The attacking midfielder came on as a late substitute in the three games that Amavubi played at the 2004 AFCON. He enjoyed his career at APR (2002-2005) before heading overseas for a decade-long professional career in Belgium and Malaysia respectively.
In mid-2014, the former APR striker returned to Rwanda and is currently working as technical director at Rwamagana-based topflight league side Sunrise FC.
He is widely the most prolific striker that the country has produced and was nicknamed ‘God of Goals’ by fans especially for his goals in the 2004 AFCON qualifying campaign.
He served the national team from 2001 to 2009. At club level, played for Mukura VS, APR FC, Rayon Sports and professionally at South Africa’s Maritzburg United (2004/2005) and Ethiopia’s Saint George in 2010 before retiring a year later. He currently lives in the United States with his family.
Kharim Kamanzi Habimana:
The former Kiyovu striker tried pursuing a professional career in Belgium but was not successful. He settled in Belgium.
Lomami played for a host of clubs after 2004 like Flash, Kiyovu, APR, Atraco and Rayon Sports before settling in Zambia.
Cameroonian-born goalkeeper, Mbeu was naturalized in a rush to travel with Amavubi Stars in Tunisia and only served the team for less than two years. He was the second choice goalie who finished the tournament without playing and was wearing jersey number 1. Today, he is a retired stopper and lives in Cameroun.
Jean Claude Ndagijimana:
The former Marines FC goalkeeper travelled with Amavubi Stars as the third choice goalkeeper. He currently lives in France with his family.Follow https://twitter.com/bishumba