Football is my life, says Amavubi’s Iranzi

LIKE in most parts of the world, football is the most popular sport in Rwanda and has produced a number of big names over the years. But most recently it produced APR and Amavubi’s Jean-Claude Iranzi. The 23-year-old Iranzi is a left-footed dynamic footballer, who can play as a left-back, left winger as well as a playmaker. Iranzi says he takes inspiration from former Amavubi Stars forward Jimmy Gatete, who is currently based in USA, while on the global scene; he is a big fan of the four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
Jean-Claude Iranzi, right, tries to shield the ball from Rayon Sports midfielder Djamal Mwiseneza during a league match. The two bust to to local scene in 2004. (File)
Jean-Claude Iranzi, right, tries to shield the ball from Rayon Sports midfielder Djamal Mwiseneza during a league match. The two bust to to local scene in 2004. (File)

LIKE in most parts of the world, football is the most popular sport in Rwanda and has produced a number of big names over the years. But most recently it produced APR and Amavubi’s Jean-Claude Iranzi.

The 23-year-old Iranzi is a left-footed dynamic footballer, who can play as a left-back, left winger as well as a playmaker.

Iranzi says he takes inspiration from former Amavubi Stars forward Jimmy Gatete, who is currently based in USA, while on the global scene; he is a big fan of the four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.

Chelsea’s Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho is the best coach in the world in the eyes of the APR star, who has missed in action for the past month due to an ankle injury.

“I don’t only play, but I am a big supporter of the national team, the Amavubi Stars.  In world football, I support Spain but I think Germany will win this year’s Fifa World Cup in Brazil,” Iranzi told Saturday Sport.

Early days

Since his childhood, the former EP Kimisagara pupil, Iranzi has always taken football as his first sport, although he also tried volleyball at some stage.

“Ever since I was a little boy, I have always loved football. Playing and watching it consumes most of my time. I also tried volleyball a little bit but just for leisure,” he said.

Iranzi is a product of Turbo King National Football League (TKNFL) side Esperance but left the club as a junior player when it was still featuring in the lower division.

“I grew up in Kimisagara and started to play football seriously with Esperance FC and they are still my family. I left in 2006 when they were still playing in the junior championship that does not exist today,” he narrates.

Topflight division career

In 2006, Iranzi left Esperance to join giants Kiyovu Sports Club on a two-year contract. He featured for the Mumena-based league side for two seasons but won nothing until he made  big money move to APR FC in 2008.

“I had a good time at Kiyovu although we won nothing, I will always treasure the experience I gained with them during my first two years in the topflight division league.”

In 2008, the then 18-year-old Iranzi was signed by the army side for Rwf8million. Currently, the pint-sized but talented wing-back is one of APR’s most senior players.

For the former Kiyovu winger, after signing for APR, it was a total change of history in terms of winning titles. He has helped his current club to win four league titles in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 as well as four Peace Cup titles of 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.

He also played a big role as APR won the Cecafa Kagame Cup title in 2010 in Kigali. He was also part of APR that reached last year’s final in Darfur, Sudan but lost to Burundi’s Vital’O.

Iranzi in national teams

The skilled star received his national youth team call-up in 2004 when he was barely 14 years old, but did not make it to the final squad that travelled to Sweden for the annual Gothia Cup.

Other players that made breakthrough at the same period were Mugianeza, Haruna Niyonzima and Djamal Mwiseneza.

However, since 2006 when he was called-up in the national junior team, he went on to be a permanent fixture, when fit until end of 2009.

Iranzi was part of the U-20 team that competed in the CAN U20 staged in Rwanda, which was won by Ghana under former Amavubi coach Sellas Tetteh. Ghana also went on to win the Fifa U20 World Cup after beating Brazil on penalties.

In 2008, Iranzi received his maiden call-up in the senior national team.

Off-pitch achievements

“Football is my job, and through playing, I achieved a lot but I still have a long way to go. God has blessed me in my career and I am grateful,” Iranzi noted.

Football has helped Iranzi to make his dreams come true.

He has been able to build a house and onather  for parents. He also owns a car.

What do colleagues say about him?

Mugiraneza has known Iranzi since 2006 as a friend and teammate at Kiyovu and now at APR since 2008. “Iranzi is a gentle guy, clever on pitch, always positive, courageous and eager to always learn. He is humble and compassionate outside football.”

Asked about the people, who have helped him to become the player he is, Iranzi mentions Donatien Nsengimana, president of Esperance FC, Roger Bizumuremyi a founder-member of Esperance.

Another one is Aloys Kanamugire, the veteran national youth team coach and the one in charge of talent detection in Rwanda football federation.

When does he plan to retire?

“If all goes well, I want to hung-up my boots at 35 and go for a different challenge,” he said. In other words, Iranzi still has 12 years of playing.

He also disclosed that he would wish to play in a more competitive league in Europe, “It is every player’s dream, I would embrace the chance if it happens.”

He revealed that in 2011 he received offers from Turkish side Manisaspor FC and another offer from Tanzania’s Young Africans the following year, but both failed because he still had a contract with APR, who were not willing to listen to offers.

Which players did he enjoy playing alongside?

It is Jimmy Gatete and Olivier Karekezi, he says.

Iranzi was born on October 5, 1990 in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Prosper Mugorozi and Josephine Nyiraganza. He is the last born from a family of three children, two boys and one girl.

Still single, the soft spoken Iranzi attended Kimisagara primary school, went to Gakenke district-based Aprodesegi secondary school for O’level before heading to Saint Joseph Nyamirambo (senior 4) and ASPEG Rwamagana where he completed A’ level in 2010.

Unfortunately, he did not enroll for university but says he has plans to continue his education in the near future.

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