After six years with national league giants Espoir Basketball Club, Rwanda international Lionel Hakizimana has parted ways with the Nyamirambo-based side. The basketball star claims that the reason of his quitting is because ‘the club was sidelining him.’
Hakizimana’s decision to leave the five-time league champions was announced on Thursday, the same day when Espoir, together with Patriots and Ubumwe (women) players departed for Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania for this year’s FIBA-Africa Zone V Club Championships.
The regional competition gets underway today and runs until October 7.
Speaking to Saturday Sport, the former CSK and APR shooting guard revealed that he decided to leave Espoir following what he called “misunderstandings” between him and the new head coach, Aimé Karim Nkusi.
The coach accused Hakizimana of missing the team’s training and recent pre-season friendly games, a charge that the player says is not only wrong but baseless.
“I heard in the media that I refused to attend Tuesday’s practice and also refused to speak to the club but I would like to set the record straight. I was unable to attend last Sunday’s game due to family issues and I informed the coaches and team in advance,” says Hakizimana.
However, the 24-year-old star says that he was informed that he is not welcome back at the club until he apologises for his actions, something he says left him bewildered.
He added, “It’s hurting to leave such a great team, my family in such a manner. But it’s also hard to continue fighting and giving your best when someone supposed to be on your side is against you. God has blessed me with this talent, and I trust him to guide me in my next step,” he said.
Meanwhile, the three clubs that travelled by road arrived in Dar-es-Salaam on Friday evening ahead of the start of the FIBA-Africa Zone V Club Championships.
This year’s tournament has attracted a total of 17 clubs from five countries namely; Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and hosts Tanzania. However, by press time, the draws were yet to be made.
Espoir will be seeking to win the regional event for the second time since 2012, while Ubumwe, established in 2012, will be making their second appearance after debuting in last year’s edition hosted in Kigali. Patriots, established in 2014, will be making their maiden appearance.
Gezira (Egypt) and Berco Stars (Burundi) are the reigning champions in men and women categories, respectively, although the two clubs pulled out of this year’s event.
Last year’s men’s finalists City Oilers, from Uganda, and Kenya’s 2014 winners KPA are among the favourites for this year’s title.
Other teams include’ Ulinzi, USIU (men and women) from Kenya, National Engineering and Citizen from South Sudan (men), UCU (men and women) and KCCA (women) from Uganda while hosts Tanzania will field ABC and Savio in the men’s category with JKT and Don Bosco featuring in the women fray.