What started as a fantasy for a young African refugee in the UK has now become a huge reality for youngster Geal Bigirimana after the teenager signed a five-year contract with Newcastle United of the English Premier League.
Being a Newcastle fan, and with affiliation to Rwanda, it doesn’t require rocket science that I have picked huge interest in Bigirimana’s arrival at St. James’ Park or Sports Direct Arena as it’s called these days.
Born in the Burundian capital Bujumbura 18 years ago to a Burundian mother and a Rwandan father, Bigirimana, who also, as I came to find out, lived in Uganda before moving to England with his family that included his mother, father, two brothers and sister in 2004.
Having followed Newcastle United since 1999/97 season, it is common sense that, like every ardent fan, I get interested in knowing the details of every player the club has bought over the years, good or bad.
Not decided yet
However, the club’s latest signing is not just any other player—he is a Rwandan/Burundian first, an East African second, an African thirdly and last but not least, Rwanda’s national team wants him to play for them and most importantly, it appears he wants too.
Reports indicate that the player has already held preliminary talks with Ferwafa officials with a view to play for Amavubi Stars—the Burundian Football Association has not just sat on sidelines either.
So, what does Bigirimana’s move to a club that finished fifth last season in what is believed to be the toughest domestic league in the world, mean to whichever country that offers him the best possible off, not only in monetary terms but most importantly a chance to shine at the international level?
Going by what we can see on the ground and what probably lays ahead as far as the above two factors at concerned in relation to the two countries, you would be easily compelled to believed Rwanda has the upper hand, but it all goes down to how our good officials both at Ferwafa and the ministry of sports take their case to the young man.
Make no mistake, now with him playing for a side in the upper echelons of the English Premier League; Bigirimana won’t come cheap, especially for Amavubi. All official information coming out of the UK press about him, refer to the boy as a Burundian, so that gives our neighbours the advantage.
The teenager turned up unannounced at Coventry’s Academy as an 11-year-old seven years ago and begged for a trial, now becomes my beloved club’s second signing of the summer.
How fitting that he happens to be connected to Rwanda in far more ways than almost all these premadonnas on whom the country has been spending so much tax payers’ money to make them love and play for national team.
Ferwafa and the government must do everything possible to get down this guy, he is the next big thing to come out of this region, a region that does not produce that many numbers playing in any major league around the world.
Imagine Amavubi lining up for their next major match when the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers return in February with an English Premier League player on their books?
He must have something extremely good about him, first as a player then as a teenager to catch the eye of a big club as Newcastle United, which has one of the best scouting network in the Premier League since owner Mike Ashley took over.
The midfielder joins Alan Pardew’s side after making 26 appearances in the Championship (England’s second division) last season, despite relegation and winning the league’s Apprentice of the Year award.
In his first interview with Newcastle United’s official website, the player who was in Kigali early this year and is reported to have held initial talks with top Rwandan football officials, talked of his “amazing journey.”
“One day I was just going with my brother to buy some milk at Asda and then I looked to my right and there was this centre where the Coventry youth team Academy trained. There was something in me - like a voice - just said ‘go and ask to train.’
“The next day, I went there and I just asked if I could train and stuff. They were kind of like, ‘this is awkward, you can’t just come in here and ask to train. We have to come and watch you and scout you if you’re good!’
“So I gave them the name of my school and they told me ‘if you’ve got a school match, we’ll come and watch you.’ I was excited - I was like ‘yes, they’ll come and watch me and I’ll have my chance’ - and I just started jogging off because I was excited.
“Then as I was running, they stopped me. They called me back and I thought ‘there’s no-one around me so it’s got to be me that they’re calling.’ So I went back and they asked me: ‘are you good enough?’. I just said: ‘well you’ll have to wait and see if you give me a chance.’
“They asked me if I had any shin pads and stuff and I said yes - but I didn’t! The next day, I went and trained with them and from then it’s just been an amazing journey.”
So, with due respect but Burundi not very near and not so far behind Rwanda in football standards or even just the financial muscle if necessary to persuade the youngster, why can’t Rwanda make their move quick enough before Bigirimana becomes another Danny Welbeck for England. Just a thought