AMAVUBI STARS captain Olivier Karekezi has retired from international football. This marks the end of a 13-year career with the national team in which he scored a record 25 goals in 53 appearances.
“I feel it is time for young players with potential to step up and take my position. I have decided that it is time for me to leave the national team,” Karekezi said in a statement issued by the Rwanda Football Federation on Sunday.
In his parting remarks, Karekezi thanked Rwanda and his teammates in Amavubi for the years he was given a chance to play and also wear the captain’s band for the national team.
“I am very happy for all the experience and all that we have achieved as a team and I will always remember my time with great memories. We have come a long way as a team, longer than many had anticipated and it is all thanks to my teammates and the coaches. But we would never have become who we are if it wasn’t for the support from the government, fans, the federation and the media,” the statement further reads.
Karekezi paid special tribute to President Paul Kagame.
“It was with great honor that we went out and played after he (Kagame) gave us courage and spoke with the team personally before we reached Africa Cup 2004. I will always remember how during all these years he has supported Amavubi.”
The 30-year-old Karekezi made his debut for Amavubi in 2000 during the 2-all clash against Cote d’Ivoire in the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup.
A year later, the now CA Bizertin forward, scored his first international goal against Somalia during the Cecafa Challenge Cup in the 3-0 win for Amavubi Stars.
In July, the former APR playmaker had hinted on bowing out but announced that he would do so in 2015 when his current contract with CA Bizertin expires.
At that time, he said, “Yes, I am finally hanging up my boots for good! Playing football is all I have ever wanted to do and I think I have achieved all I ever wanted in my career.”
“I don’t expect to renew my contract with Bizertin when it expires in March, 2015. I will see what to do next but, of course, working on my coaching badges will be one of my priorities,” added Karekezi.
Karekezi joined CA Bizertin last year after a successful second stint with APR. He left after helping the army side to the national football league title as well as the MTN Peace Cup, having scored 14 goals.
Karekezi’s career started with APR way back in 2002 before he left to join Sweden’s top division club Helsingborgs IF in 2005.
He scored five goals in 18 matches during the 2005 season. In 2006, he scored 11 goals for Helsingborg, becoming the top scorer in Allsvenskan.
In January 2008, the APR youth team product moved to Norwegian side Hamarkameratene. In March 2010, he returned to Sweden and played for second division club Östers IF for two years before returning home for one season.
He is the only player who featured in 2004 Nations Cup finals, and still retained a regular place on the Amavubi team which is currently managed by his former teammate Eric Nshimiyimana.
Nshimiyimana, says Karekezi made the decision in order to prolong his club career, noting that, “It has been a pleasure to have a player with his experience and ability in the squad.”
“He was in my plans for the Benin game because his services were still pivotal for the national team. I talked to him before he announced his retirement and I could not change his mind because I wanted to convince him to retire after the Benin game,” added Nshimiyimana.
Karekezi’s last international match was during the 1-0 loss to Algeria played in May and he was also in Nshimiyimana’s squad for the final Group H match against Benin due on September 8 in Porto Novo.
Tanzania’s based Young Africans’ playmaker Haruna Niyonzima takes over the mantle from Karekezi as Amavubi skipper.