Beefed-up AS Kigali tipped to challenge for league title

Haruna Niyonzima was unveiled as AS Kigali player on Wednesday after penning a one-year deal. / Courtesy

AS KIGALI have been tipped to challenge heavyweights APR and Rayon Sports for titles next season following the club’s show of ambition on the transfer market.

The City of Kigali-sponsored side are the talk of the town after signing some of the most famous names – in local football – of the last decade on Wednesday, including Amavubi skipper Haruna Niyonzima.

After inking his one-year deal, Haruna said he looks forward to help turning AS Kigali into a team that can challenge APR and Rayon for titles, and in particular, the 2019/2020 Azam Rwanda Premier League title.

No team – other than Rayon and APR – have managed to win the league title since now-defunct Atraco FC in 2008.

According to Jean-Baptiste Kayiranga, a Rayon Sports legend and former Amavubi coach, the arrival of star signings makes AS Kigali one of the teams to watch next season, and “Certainly title contenders.”

Besides Haruna, AS Kigali also acquired the services of eight more players, who were all unveiled at Kigali Stadium. Some of the other new signings include former APR right-back Michel Rusheshangoga and, former APR and Rayon goalie Eric ‘Bakame’ Ndayishimiye.

“These are some of the best players we have had over the last decade. Their arrival definitely places AS Kigali among the frontrunners for league title next season,” Kayiranga told Times Sport on Thursday.

However, he also argued that, for a team like AS Kigali, it might be challenging to handle the star status of their new signings, a sentiment he shares with veteran sports journalist Jean Butoyi.

“The club management and coaching staff will have a serious job to do,” said Butoyi.

“The club needs a coach who can demand discipline and ‘team first’ spirit from the players, especially the new players. Otherwise, with AS Kigali, we are looking at a new horse entering the title race next season.”

Three Cameroonians and one Gabonese, Allogo Mba Rick Martel, are among the nine new players at AS Kigali. According to Daniel Komezusenge, the club’s secretary general, all the four imports are forwards.

The Cameroonian trio comprises Arsitide Ekandjoum Essombe, Thierry Makon Nlogi and Fabrice Raymond Fosso. Forward Rashid Kalisa, from SC Kiyovu, and former Marines full-back Christian Ishimwe are the other two new players.

For Amavubi legend Karim Kamanzi, who was part of the famous 2004 AFCON squad in Tunisia, the bolstering of AS Kigali squad is a bold move that makes them ‘the strongest challenger APR and Rayon are going to deal with in a long time’.

“AS Kigali are now a serious threat to the dominance of APR and Rayon.”

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