Emile Karera: The making of a volleyball star from genocide ashes

Star libero Emile Karera plies his trade at Gisagara Volleyball Teamsince 2016 and has since helped the club to win two league titles in a row. File photo.

EMILE Karera, a 28-year old volleyball player, has helped Gisagara to win two national volleyball championships back-to-back in the last two seasons since joining the club in 2016.

Fondly known as Dada among his peers, Karera is one of the most famous names in local volleyball, as well as one of the longest serving players on the national team.

There has been a host of new rising stars in the sport in the country as it evolved over the years Karera was able to cope with changes in the process – which at some point required him to change his playing position from a spiker to a libero.

It is during his first season with APR, in 2007, that he was groomed into a ‘Libero’ due to lots of attacking options at the club.

A libero is a player specialised in defensive skills, and must wear a contrasting jersey colour from his or her teammates. When the ball is not in play, the libero can replace any back-row player without prior notice to the officials.

Karera, whom Saturday Sport profiles in this issue, hails from the golden generation of the star volleyball players in the country such as the national team skipper Christophe Mukunzi, Flavien Ndamukunda, veteran Mathieu Rwanyonga and retired Pierre Marshal Kwizera to name a few.

Who is Karera?

Born on May 18, 1990 to Jean Karera and Jane Karigirwa in Nyarugenge District, City of Kigali, the volleyball star is the second born from a family of five children – two boys and three girls.

Karera survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi at Club Rafiki in Nyamirambo together with six of his family members, his siblings and mother.

His father, Karera Senior, was killed during the atrocities. The libero was only four-year old then.

Dada attended Ecole Primaire Intwali in Nyamirambo before going to College du Christ-Roi Nyanza for his O’Level and Inyemeramihigo for his A’Level, majoring in Human Sciences.

Nearly ten years since he graduated from high school, Karera is yet to join university but says he is considering it and ‘sometime soon’ he will enroll to one of the local universities.

“I had to choose between going to university immediately after secondary school or focusing on my volleyball career first – and I chose the latter. Studying is endless, sooner than later I will go for my university studies,” Karera told Saturday Sport in exclusive interview on Thursday.

Early days

Largely inspired, and at times pushed, by his elder brother Jean de Dieu Uwimana, Karera started playing volleyball at a very tender age during his early primary school days. Unlike his boyhood friends who all played football, Dada grew up plauing volleyball.

Uwimana, Karera’s brother, is a former player for the national volleyball team and currently is the head coach of Kigali Volleyball Club.

At the age of 15, in 2005, Karera acquired his first license to play in the national volleyball league, he then featured for his former school team, Nyanza-based College Christ-Roi.

Club career

After one year with the Catholic Church-affiliated school, Karera moved to Rubavu-based College Inyemramihigo where he played for the school in youth competitions and for Umubano Blue Tigers in the national league.

Following his two-year stint with Umubano where he never won anything notable, Karera turned down a contract extension offer to join giants APR, whom he played for from late 2007 through 2012.

During the five and half years, Karera helped the military side to win four league titles and several other titles, on domestic arena and in the region.

The celebrated libero called time on his spell with APR mid-2012 to join Lycee de Nyanza, whom he helped to second place in the league. After one season with the secondary school side, both parties parted company and the player immediately moved to the University of Rwanda (formerly National University of Rwanda), and played there one season.

In 2014, Karera was one of the star players that were signed by then debutants, and now-defunct Rayon Sports Volleyball Club. He served the team for one season, after which he rejoined APR for a second spell after four years in a several league sides.

During his one-year stay with Rayon, they finished second in the league behind champions UNIK, but beat the Ngoma-based side to win the Genocide Memorial and Care d’As titles.

Out of contract, veteran Karera moved to then-newly created Gisagara volleyball club in 2016 and has since been one of their best players over the last two seasons as they clinched two consecutive league titles and one Care d’As title – including this year’s double.

Duties in the national team

Karera received his call-up for the national senior team in 2010 and has since been a regular on the team, playing in various regional and continental competitions. He never played for junior national teams.

He was part of the national team that finished fourth at the 2015 All-Africa Games in the Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. He has also played several qualifiers for the African Championships and FIVB World Cup.

Playing volleyball, especially with the national team, has enabled Karera to travel to several African countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Cameroon, Mozambique, Kenya and Congo-Brazzaville.

Future Plan

Once he retires from competitive volleyball, which he plans to do in two years’ time, Karera is optimistic he will venture into coaching and grassroots programmes to nurture volleyball young talents.

How do friends describe him?

His teammate at Gisagara, Gasongo Dusabimana, describes Karera as a “humble, hard-working, and calm man who always seeks the best out of people”, adding that he always wants to live in harmony with friends and never abuses his star status.


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