It goes without saying that Isonga Football Club is Rwanda’s top football academy, at least to anyone, who takes trouble to follow Rwandan football.
And according to Isonga FC chairman, Gregoire Muramira, the club has continued to do what it set out do when it was first formed after the 2011 FIFA U17 World Cup in Mexico, which is to nurture young talented players to feed the senior clubs as well as the national youth teams.
Isonga FC started with the pool of players that participated in Africa U17 Youth Championships held in Rwanda and later at the World Cup finals tournament in Mexico, in order for the country to have a large pool of young players to feed the big clubs.
“We continue to develop players according to their skills and give them chance to compete on high level, and if you look around, especially in the national league, you find that most of the clubs have players from Isonga,” Muramira told SaturdaySport in an exclusive interview.
He added that, “We have produced some of the current big names in Rwandan football and we have high hopes that we will produce more.”
The youthful side, which was recently promoted to the Azam Rwanda Premier League under head coach Moussa Gatera, is funded by the Ministry of Sports and Culture through the local football governing body, FERWAFA.
Muramira further stated that: “Overall, I believe we have done well in terms of sticking to the original mission of Isonga FC and we will keep the same spirit in order to groom home grown players.”
“For the record, I want people to remember our team as the best football club in Rwanda that has produced and continue to nurture top players. So far everything seems to be good,” he noted.
Muramira disclosed that the club, which forms the core part of the U-17 national team, will soon start the process of recruiting new players from local academies and talent detection centres around the country.
Head coach Gatera said: “It gives me great pleasure to work with these young and talented players every day. We want to give them a chance of playing many games in the topflight league so that they can become even better by playing against the very best in the country.”
“Isonga is a product of the country and the idea is to bring through young players and train them for the future and the plan will remain to continue to give a chance to young players, who are the future of the country,” he added.
Isonga FC was founded in 2011 as a composition of players, who played in the U-17 African Youth Championships and the FIFA World Cup. The team was promoted to the U-20 level and registered to play in the national league without going through the second division.
Under, Eric Nshimiyimana, Isonga FC finished in sixth position in its debut season in the 2011/12 season but failed to maintain that impressive form the next campaign, which saw them relegated to the second-tier league.
Some of the players that have come through Isonga FC before joining league clubs include; Emery Bayisenge (KAC Kénitra, Morocco) and Salomon Nirisarike (Tubize, Belgium).
Some big names in Rwanda football that were introduced by Isonga before becoming big players include; Emery Bayisenge (KAC Kénitra, Morocco) as well as Michel Rusheshangoga and Danny Usengimana, who both recently joined Tanzanian side Singida FC.
Others are Eric Rutanga, Djabel Manishimwe, Jean D’Amour Ndacyayisenga, François Mugisha, Abdoul Rwatubyaye, Olivier Seif Niyonzima, Kevin Muhire, Yves Rwigema and Thierry Manzi (Rayon Sports).
AS Kigali: Savio Dominique Nshuti, Ratif Bishira, Hamidu Ndayisaba, Eric Nsabimana, Evode Ntwali, Eric Iradukunda, Kevin Ishimwe, Yusuf Habimana and Suleiman Kakira.
APR FC: Faustin Usengimana, Janvier Benedata, Yves Kimenyi, Andrew Buteera, Fiston Nkezingabo, Patrick Sibomana and Steven Ntalibi.
Police FC: Bertrand Iradukunda, Mustapha Nsengimana, Anderson Neza, Celestin Ndayishimiye, Marcel Nzarora and Justin Mico.
Bugesera FC: Robert Ndatimana, Farouk Saifi Ruhinda, Olivier Kwizera and Héritier Turatsinze.
Eugene Habyarimana, François Hakizimana (Musanze FC), Amur Kalisa, Jean Luck Bisangwa (Marines FC), Isaac Muganza, Djihad Nzeyurwanda (SC Kiyovu) as well as Shadad Nsengayire (Etincelles).