FIFA proves that Burundi is not anonymous

Football fever recently reached its peak as Chelsea shocked the world by snatching victory from the German outfit Bayern Munich in the Champions League final that the later hosted in their marvellous arena.
Allan Brian Ssenyonga
Allan Brian Ssenyonga

Football fever recently reached its peak as Chelsea shocked the world by snatching victory from the German outfit Bayern Munich in the Champions League final that the later hosted in their marvellous arena.

The passion that East Africans have invested in European football always gets me thinking about the lost lives for their own sporting heroes. The Chelsea victory had so many people in this region showering Ivorian striker Didier Drogba with praises that Uganda’s Ibrahim Sekagya can only dream of.

For some reason, many East Africans can authoritatively talk about Drogba, yet they will be at pains to even recognise Uganda’s Ibrahim Sekagya who just made history by becoming the first African to captain a European club to a cup double. Yes you read that right, the former Uganda Cranes captain led Austrian club, Red Bull Salzburg to both the Bundesliga trophy as well as the domestic cup. 

Now that most football leagues have come to an end, the European Cup is about to kick off and again we East Africans shall be screaming our voices hoarse for European football stars. Again we shall complain about some of the rules that FIFA the football governing body has put in place for the good of the game. Already there is talk of finding an alternative to the heart threatening scenario of penalties.

What is now interesting is that as we throw praises or curses at FIFA, we should keep in mind the fact that one of our own is now part of this body that Sepp Blatter once said was actually more important than the UN since it has more members than the UN.

As of last week, Burundi’s Football Association president Lydia Nsekera, also made history by becoming the first female to be appointed to serve on the executive committee of FIFA in the body’s 108-year history. I am just a writer but if I had my way I would ask that we give her a standing ovation.

By the time of filing this story, FIFA was planning to ratify her appointment in the Hungarian capital Budapest. According to BBC Sport she said, “It’s an honour to Africa and even greater honour to my country Burundi.” I also learnt and I am glad to share with you the fact that Lydia Nsekera is just one of two women to have ever led an African football association the other being Liberia’s Izetta Wesley.

For some time now, I have known that Burundi’s leader Pres. Pierre Nkurunziza is a die-hard football fan who even finds time to head to the stadium with his jersey to play for a while so as to keep fit. What I did not know is that from 2004, Lydia Nsekera has been heading the Burundian FA.

This move by FIFA simply proves one thing that I have been fighting for, the false assumption that there is nothing newsworthy about Burundi. Many people wrongly consider Burundi to be the anonymous member of the East African Community yet in the actual sense it is just that regional media has not done enough to cover the country.

How else do you explain all the pro-feminism feature stories that grace papers in Uganda, Kenya or Rwanda not doing a story on this phenomenal woman? How can we be shown picture of Pres. Nkurunziza balancing a football on his head without informing us of the lady who heads the game’s association. That is food for thought for those in the industry.

The myth that Burundi is up to no good as far as the EAC is concerned was further debunked by the recent entry of Kenya’s biggest bank by branch network, KCB. If KCB has seen the business sense to open shop in Bujumbura, how can you sit there and continue thinking that nothing much is going on in Buja as the locals fondly refer to their lakeside capital.

Another interesting development that I have been following keenly is the announcement that Tanzanian based CRDB Bank is to extend its services to Burundi come July 1, 2012. The fact that a Tanzanian Bank is moving into Burundi before a Ugandan or Rwandan bank says a lot about Tanzania which some have perennially blamed for anything wrong to do with EAC integration.

Therefore, while many people pride in being ignorant and despondent about Burundi, a Tanzanian and Kenyan bank think otherwise, just like FIFA’s Sepp Blatter. The message; Burundi is ready for business, let us pay more attention. Congratulations to Lydia Nsekera on her huge appointment.

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