It is said everyone is born with a talent but how long does it take one to realize his own because it’s also true that many never realize their talent and some do it at a late stage.
In this issue of Saturday Sport magazine, we profile Rayon Sports VC and Rwanda national team right-attacker, Nelson Murangwa, who narrates his cross-cutting journey from nothing to a professional volleyball player.
Despite growing up with much passion for sports, Murangwa never had a dream to play volleyball at a higher level because it wasn’t his sport during his earlier years—instead he preferred to play basketball which he says was his first sport of choice and dreamt of being a professional player at it.
“Ever since I was a kid, my ambition was to play basketball because I used to watch NBA’s Kobe Bryant clips at home and he inspired me so much but eventually I found myself (playing) volley ball…laughs…..,” he revealed in interview for this article.
Murangwa explains that throughout his primary school and the first two years in secondary school, he was still contented as a wanna-be basketball players, but after joining senior three, he fell in love with volleyball.
He narrates that he used to play both games (basketball and volleyball) occasionally but because his main focus was on studies, one day the Director of Nyagatare SS (Edward Kabare) challenged him to take advantage of his height and exploit his potential at volleyball.
“To me he (Kabare) is the one who made me discover my volleyball talent because after his advice, I realized I would excel in it (volleyball) than basketball and from that moment, I put all my energy into volleyball and as they say, the rest is history,” Murangwa explained.
He noted that he took the decision to play volleyball seriously during his senior three holidays when the Rwanda Volleyball Federation (FRVB) selected him among the rising talents for a special holiday training camp that was held at Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare.
After joining Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare in 2011, the soft-spoken Murangwa joined the school team which was by then featuring in the national league and a year later, he was the captain for the team until he left in 2013.
After completing his A’level in 2013, he was approached by Rayon Sports volleyball club head coach Fidele Nyirimana, who recruited him among the team’s pioneer players as the club sought to register to play in the national league, the following year (2014).
“I made my league debut for Rayon Sports and we lost by 3 sets to 1,” he recalls before adding that the toughest match he has ever played was when the Rwanda junior team played against Algeria in World Championships qualifiers in Tunisia in 2012.
“It was a must win game because whoever won the game between the two teams would qualify for the World Cup in Turkey and we won 3-1, I will never forget that match, it was the most important match we (Rwandan players) we had ever played because it took us to the World Cup.”
Asked to describe his career so far, the 21-year old Murangwa said, “Well so far so good although I still have a long way to go and much to learn but for me, the sky is the limit.”
Murangwa received his first call up on the national junior team in 2012 by head coach Paul Bitok for the 2013 World Championships qualifier in Tunisia.
“Honestly, it was a dream come true, because it was the first time that I was going to play for the national team but also it was my first time to fly, it was a great feeling and big honour to represent my country.
World Cup memories
What do you remember most about the World Championships in Turkey? “Of course it was my first time in Europe, you can imagine that experience and excitement…”
“We played with strong teams like USA, Venezuela and there was a huge difference between us and those other players, but it was a big learning experience for us.”
All African Games
The Rayon Sports right-attacker reveals that it was a dream debut at the 2015 All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville where Rwanda finished fourth, behind gold medal winners Algeria, silver medalist Congo and Egypt, who took bronze.
He says, “It was a nice experience for me in particular because it was my first All Africa Games although we did not win any medal but playing against big teams like Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt and Algeria improved my understanding of the game.”
Best and worst moment
“The best moment of my career so far was when we beat Algeria to qualify for the World Championships, while the worst moment was during my senior six at GS Officiel de Butare when we were defeated by St. Joseph and Lycee de Kigali during the inter-schools competitions in 2013.
“Well, my ambition and future plans is to play abroad and extend my career to an international level, am working hard for it and hopefully that opportunity will come sooner rather than later.”
How others describe him
Edward Kabare, the Director of Nyagatare SS says, “I know Murangwa as a very simple and shy boy, I am sure he will become an international player because he has all the attributes to succeed. I just wish he had realized his potential in volleyball much earlier, he would be a better player by now.”
“I have been with him since 2012 and he has improved so fast. He is very dedicated and focused on what he wants and I’m sure in five years, he could be playing in one of the best leagues in the world,” says national team head coach Bitok.
Who is Murangwa?
Born in Kampala, Uganda on February 3, 1994 to Antoine Karugahi and Anonciatta Mukanayomba (RIP), Murangwa is the second born in the family of four- two boys and two girls.
The 21-year-old, who claims to be still single and not searching, is the only person in his entire family to have played volley ball to a professional level.
“None of my siblings and my whole family did play volley, it’s only me while others have been devoted to studying,” he notes.
He attended Mere du verbe nursery and primary school near Sonatube in Kicukiro District, and Nyagatare SS for O’level before joining Huye-based Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare for A’level in 2010 pursuing Physics, Chemistry and Biology (PCB).
About furthering his studies to a higher level, he says, “I hope to join university either towards the end of this year or the beginning of next year.”
Despite his love for volleyball, the Rayon Sports star is also a diehard fan of English Premier League side Chelsea and his favorite player is former England midfielder Frank Lampard and also adores Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.