ERIC Gisa Irambona, Rayon Sports left-back and the club’s second captain, was only 2 when the Genocide against the Tutsi erupted in April 1994.
His father and two siblings are among the over one million lives that perished in the heinous atrocities that lasted for 100 days.
To many survivors who went on to become sports stars, sport is credited for giving them reason to live again – and hope for the future – despite what they had to witness at tender ages.
“I can’t imagine my life and where I would be without football. The sport has given me the future I never thought I would have,” Irambona told this publication in an interview on Friday.
“It (football) makes me feel alive.”
Born in Nyamasheke District – Western Province, in 1992, Irambona was the last born from a family of seven children.
As Rwanda commemorates the Genocide for the 26th time, Irambona says that April is always a hard time for him and his family.
“These are hard times for me and family, hard for all the survivors. For me, it makes me think so much about the past, about the life I passed through and how difficult life has been.
Sometimes I say, if I had a parent, he would have assisted me here and there.”
How he survived
Irambona is saddened because he didn’t get the opportunity to see his dad and two elder siblings who were killed in April 1994 when he was so young. At times, he says, he creates images in his head of how they were killed in a derisive way
“They died when I was still so young, I was yet to celebrate my second anniversary. There is nothing that I really saw during that time, I don’t know their faces save for one picture of theirs.”
However, Irambona remembers that he survived because his parents clothed him in a (girls’) dress, noting that at first in the area, killers started with men and boys.
“They disguised me as a girl. I was clothed in a dress. If I had looked like a boy for them, they could have taken me and killed me.”
He adds: “They tried to take me but my mother fought and told them that I was a girl. That time they assaulted her to the level of running unconscious, but by chance she did not die.”
Message to fellow survivors
Featuring for Rayon Sports senior team since 2013, Irambona encourages the survivors to be strong in such a time, and urges the young ones to strive for a brighter future.
“What I can tell the Rwandans, especially those that survived the genocide, is that they should be strong. What happened to us is hard to perceive, but we have to march on and fight for a brighter shared future.”
“The commemoration period is a good time to remember and, also unite and renew as it is said. For the youths, we must intentionally take a decision of the direction in which we want to take our lives, and ultimately our country.”
Irambona has won two league titles and one Peace Cup with Rayon, and was part of the team that reached the quarter-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup in 2018.Follow https://twitter.com/NkotanyiDamas