Dusengimana’s fairytale rise to volleyball stardom

Mention the name Willcliff Dusengimana in local volleyball circles and everyone will say a thing or two about the up-and-coming rising star.

Just after two years into his senior career, Dusengimana is set for his international debut when Rwanda starts the quest for glory at this year’s CAVB Zone V Championship next week, starting Monday in Nairobi, Kenya.

The regional tournament will also serve as qualifiers for the 2019 All-Africa Games.

Elie Mutabazi and his squad, that includes debutant Dusengimana, jet off Sunday and will play their opening match against Tanzania on Tuesday.

Willcliff Dusengimana (#9) is part of the 14-man national team selection to represent the country at this year’s Zone V Championships in Nairobi, which starts on Monday. Sam Ngendahimana.

Dusengimana has established himself as one of the best left-attackers in the last two years, and making it to the final 14-man roster from a 22-member provisional squad came as no surprise.

The last time the national team was called in mid-2017, he was playing in the second tier championship for secondary school side – Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare (GSOB).

Willcliff Dusengimana turns 20 this month. File.

His rapid rise to stardom has not only astonished those who closely follow the daily goings-on in domestic volleyball, but it has also impressed the national team technical staff who have tipped him for greatness should he keep the momentum.

Born in 1999 in Gatore Sector, of Kirehe District, Dusengimana is the second child from Joseph Mwemerankiko and Claudine Mukangenzi’s family of five; three boys and two girls.

The sensational spiker, who turns 20 on June 19, is in his freshman year at the University of Rwanda, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration.

He regards Olivier Ntagengwa, on local scene, and Cuba icon Wilfredo León as his volleyball idols.

Early days

Before picking interest in volleyball, Dusengimana used to play basketball. His dream was to become a professional basketballer.

“I never planned to be a volleyball player, let alone representing my country. It’s such a great feeling to be making my debut for the senior national team before turning 20,” he told Saturday Sport in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

His switch from basketball to volleyball, he says, was largely influenced by his uncle Vincent ‘Gasongo’ Dusabimana, whom they now play together at Gisagara Volleyball Club. Gasongo is his team captain.

“For me to be where I am today, Gasongo played a pivotal role.”

In 2014, when Dusengimana relocated from GS Remera Protestant to GSOB for his A’level studies where he majored the combination of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM), he also immediately started training with the school’s volleyball team.

However, it was not until the following year that he earned a starting position.

During his three years with GSOB, Dusengimana helped the Huye-based side to two titles; Rutsindura Memorial and Kayumba Memorial tournaments, both in junior category.

Club career

After graduating from secondary school in late 2016, and spending a few months without a club, the youngster was drafted by former champions APR for trials. It is while on trials that he inspired the club to the 2017 Genocide Memorial Tournament (GMT) title after beating Rwanda Energy Group (REG) in the final.

He immediately was offered one year of contract with the army side after the tournament.

“Everything worked out like magic,” he confessed. “I was desperate to get a team so my talent could not go to waste, and APR came through. They will always hold a special place in my heart for the opportunity (they gave me) to grow.”

However, after one season with APR last year, he was not keen to extend his contract.

Move to Gisagara

Last September, Dusengimana turned down contract-extension talks with APR, and offers from other top clubs to join then two-time reigning champions Gisagara. After inking a two-year deal with the Gisagara-based outfit, he shortly helped them to clinch the preseason tournament’s title after edging REG in the final.

He was also instrumental as his side saw off Benon Mugisha’s REG to clinch the title of the inaugural CAVB Africa Zone V Club Championship staged in February this year.

The hard-hitting star helped his team to finishing in 11th position at the 2019 Africa Men’s Club Championship in Egypt. But, his 2018/2019 campaign ended on a low note as REG halted his side’s dominance to lift the league title last month. Gisagara finished second

National team duties

While he looks forward to his first cap with the senior national team, Dusengimana is not new in national colours.

The soft spoken star previously represented the country at Under-19 level and captained the Under-21 national team that finished fourth at the African championship in Nigeria last year.