A 3-0 win over champions APR in the last game of the season on Sunday gives an authentic reflection of a remarkable season newly promoted side Sunrise FC enjoyed in their debut appearance in the National Football League.
The Rwamagana-based side finished fourth on the table standings with 40 points from 26 games, two points above troubled Rayon Sports, a feat head coach Thierry Nzungu termed as an ‘achievement’.
“Honestly, we are overjoyed with our performance this season, finishing fourth is a big achievement especially because we are above Rayon Sports. Our target for the season was to finish in the top half of the table but along the way, we realized we could actually finish higher,” Nzungu told Times Sport.
Meanwhile, former APR and Amavubi Stars forward, and Sunrise technical director, Jimmy Mulisa, emphasized that his side’s success was down to teamwork, the ability to command offensive displays and defend as a team.
He explained, “Our players stay together in a big house and that helps a lot with the cohesion and ability to work together. It is a very important aspect that we do not take for granted.”
The 31-year-old Mulisa, who played in Belgium for six years before featuring for several teams in Romania, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Malaysia, revealed that his constant advice to the players motivated them.
Mulisa said, “I was able to pass on my experience to the players to increase self-confidence.
Some of them didn’t believe in themselves. I told them that currently all the players featuring in the league are on the same level so they can make it and get the results that they need.”
Sunrise registered some outstanding results especially at home, defeating APR 3-0 and holding both AS Kigali, Rayon Sports and Police to 1-1 draws in front of their home fans. They also picked some crucial away wins including a 1-0 victory against Marines, 3-0 over Isonga and a 1-1 draw with SC Kiyovu.
Mulisa attributed this success to good management and says, “The players are happy to see the team is doing well because there is good administration. The club leaders are very close to the players and whenever there is a problem, they communicate and it is resolved internally.
“Players are like young children, if your father is close to you, you feel much loved. For example, during my playing days, whenever we won and did well, His Excellency [Paul Kagame] invited us to Urugwiro [Office of the President] and celebrated with us. This motivated us a lot to maintain working hard and aiming for the best,” he revealed.
Patrick Munyankindi and Jean d’Amour Bonane combined for 10 goals with five goals apiece to inspire the newcomers to a coveted finish that has seen them lay a marker for bigger achievements next season.
AS Kigali, Gicumbi revelation
AS Kigali finished second on the table standings with 49 points, three behind champions APR and according to head coach Eric Nshimiyimana, he is contented with his side’s performance despite not achieving their target.
In an earlier interview in the first round, the former Amavubi midfielder mentioned that his aim was to end the two-horse domestic domination by APR and Rayon Sports and indeed the City side achieved their target.
He said, “We are happy to have finished in second place even though we wanted to finish first. We have to sit down and analyze where we went wrong.”
Rayon Sports self-inflicted demise
The Blues finished in fifth position to bring to an end a dismal season that was marred by mismanagement, a poor run of results under Congolese tactician Andy Mfutila, player exodus and an outright lack of discipline from the players, who for most part of the season, missed several club training sessions hence affecting their performance.
Assistant coach Sosthene Habimana led the Nyanza-based side to second position in the first 10 games but the side struggled under Mfutila, drawing 2-2 against SC Kiyovu on November 23 in his first game.
Rayon Sports went on a frustrating eight-game winless streak in the league drawing 1-1 with Sunrise, losing to AS Kigali 2-1 and failed to score against Police, Mukura and Isonga in goalless draws. The Blues were held to a 1-1 draw by Marines and Amagaju which saw AS Kigali assume second place.
The departure of the dependable right back Karim Nizigiyimana and left back Abouba Sibomana to Kenyan giants Gor Mahia did not help matters as playmaker Jerome Sina was linked with clubs in Europe.
A section of players refused to turn up for training sessions following the failure of club management to pay salaries and wages for up to three months. However, a rebirth in April with the appointment of Jean Baptiste Kayiranga sparked a comeback but it was too late as the Blues had relinquished any hopes of any league title ambitions.
Isonga, Etincelles relegated
Bottom-placed Isonga who managed just two wins through the season were bound to be relegated to the second division as they amassed the least points – 18 points from 26 games with two wins, 10 draws and 14 losses.
Isonga head coach Innocent Seninga said, “It is sad that we have been relegated but I feel that we did not get the results but we got the performance especially in the second half of the season.
We have consistently had two or three players in the national team since November, surely that means we are doing something right.”
Rubavu-based Etincelles also with 18 points from 26 games, three wins, nine draws and 14 losses sitting in 13th place has been relegated.