Tracing AS Kigali's rise to the helm of Rwandan football

The City of Kigali (CoK) is often lauded as Africa’s cleanest and safest city. But beyond this, locally it is also proving to be a star in sports development. City of Kigali owns and runs a football club; Association Sportive de Kigali (AS Kigali FC) for both men and women.
The 2013 Peace Cup winners, AS Kigali also won the Super Cup in  after beating Rayon Sports, who had won the league that season. (Timothy Kisambira)
The 2013 Peace Cup winners, AS Kigali also won the Super Cup in after beating Rayon Sports, who had won the league that season. (Timothy Kisambira)

The City of Kigali (CoK) is often lauded as Africa’s cleanest and safest city. But beyond this, locally it is also proving to be a star in sports development. City of Kigali owns and runs a football club; Association Sportive de Kigali (AS Kigali FC) for both men and women.

How it started 

The club was founded in 2000 by the then Kigali City mayor Mark Kabandana under the name Les Citadins (or city people) and registered it in the second division.

In the club’s debut season it finished top of the second division league table to clinch their first piece of silverware hence earning promotion to the top flight division together with Gicumbi-based Zebra FC, now Gicumbi FC.

In the first season in the national league in 2001, the club finished in the eighth position, before improving by two slots to the sixth position in the following season.

In the same year, Les Citadins won the Peace Cup after defeating giants APR 1-0 in the final, which earned them their maiden appearance in the CAF Confederation Cup.

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Eric Nshimiyimana has led AS Kigali to the top of the national league. (File)

However, the team, which was by then, under the guidance of Gilbert ‘Yaounde’ Kanyakore, was eliminated in the first qualifying round.

In the preliminary round, Les Citidins (now AS Kigali) were drawn against Stade Centrafrica in Tocages of Central Africa Republic, which they defeated 4-0 in the first leg at Amahoro national stadium, and lost 2-3 in the return leg in Central Africa hence advancing to the first round where they faced Cameroonian side, Fovu de Baham.

However; the West African side proved too much for the debutants, winning 3-1 in the first and 1-0 in the return.

Change of name

Les Citadins changed their original name to Association Sportive de Kigali Football Club (AS Kigali FC) in 2005.

After years, of relying on mainly foreign players, the management decided to use home grown talents.

The policy had also been adopted by Renaissance FC which had embarked on grooming young Rwandan footballers, later both clubs merged into AS Kigali FC.

Since then, AS Kigali never finished below the top five in the national league table, and are currently leading the league table for the 2015/16 season three points ahead of Rayon Sports and APR.

Last season, the City of Kigali-sponsored side finished second, two points behind champions, APR FC.

Milestones

In 2013, the club, under coach Andre Cassa Mbungo, won the Peace Cup after thrashing national league rivals AS Muhanga 3-0 in the final match.

The success earned them a second appearance in the CAF Confederation Cup since 2001 and were drawn with Burundian side Académie Tchité.

AS Kigali won the first leg by 1-0 courtesy of forward Bodo Ndikumana’s lone goal before a 1-1 draw in the second leg hence progressing to the next phase with a 2-1 aggregate.

In the first round, they beat Sudanese outfit Al-Ahly Shendi Club 5-4 on penalties thus eliminating them in the decisive return leg in Shandi, Sudan. The hosts won the return leg 1-0 in normal time and 1-1 on aggregate as AS Kigali had snatched the first leg 1-0 in Kigali.

That win propelled the Rwandan side to the second qualifying round where they met Difaâ El Jadidi of Morocco. AS Kigali won the first leg at home 1-0 before losing the return leg 3-0, hence exiting the competition on goal aggregate.

In 2014, AS Kigali claimed the Ombudsman Cup after edging Police FC 1-0 in a tense final encounter at Amahoro National Stadium.

Also as a club that represents the City of Kigali, AS Kigali have won the East Africa Local Authorities Sports and Cultural Association (EALASCA) football title three times in the last 3 years—in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Club profile: 

Coaching staff
Head coach: Eric Nshimiyimana
Assistant coach: Jean de Dieu Mateso
Second Assistant coach: Thomas Higiro
Address: Nyamirambo regional stadium
Capacity: 12,000
Kit colors: Yellow jersey, green short and green stockings

Club officials:

Club President: Charles Havuguziga
Secretary General: Raymond Mberabahizi
Team Manager: John Nshimiye
Technical Director: Albert Mwanafuzi

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AS KIGALI WOMEN FC

The creation of AS Kigali women football club dates way back before the national women football league was launched in 2008.

The team was first founded by Felicite Rwemalika in 2001 under the umbrella of Association of Kigali Women in Sports (AKWOS), who saw football as a powerful instrument to re-engage and empower girls and women.

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Nyinawumuntu has led AS Kigali Women FC to six consecutive league titles. (File)

AKWOS also focused on reproductive health, economic empowerment, promotion of women’s rights, addressing and overcoming the trauma of gender-based violence.

Towards 2008 and following the formation of other women football clubs as well as the launching of the women national league, the City of Kigali negotiated and reached an agreement with AKWOS to obtain full rights and responsibility over the women football team and renamed it AS Kigali Women FC.

Achievements

AS Kigali women have won the league six times back to back under the coach Grace Nyinawumuntu, who is also the head coach for national women football team.

APR women won the maiden women football league title in 2009 and since then, it has been AS Kigali.

Coach Nyinawumuntu is assisted by Moustafa Safari and team captain is Shadia Uwamahirwe while Anie Marie Ibangarye is the vice-captain. The club also used to provide the bulk of the national women’s team before it was disbanded last year.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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