Fiston Nkinzingabo: The forward’s rise to prominence

Fiston Nkinzingabo is widely regarded as one of the most talented footballers in the country.

At 22, the forward has under his belt five seasons in the Azam Rwanda Premier League, during which he won three league titles and one Peace Cup with local giants APR.

He completed a two-year move to AS Kigali last Saturday and has since relished the new challenge as he seeks to become ‘one of the best players’ in the country, and help the club to their first league title next season.

Nkinzingabo is the same generation as midfielder Rashid Kalisa, another AS Kigali new signing, goalkeeper Yves Kimenyi and Police assistant captain, Dominique Savio Nshuti.

Nkinzingabo, 22, has said he wants to fight for a starting position at AS Kigali and regular call-up in Amavubi national team. Courtesy.

This week, Nkinzingabo had a one-on-one with Saturday Sport’sDamas Sikubwabo about his football career, rise to prominence and high ambitions with his new club.

Born, in November 1996, and raised in Kigali, Nkinzingabo is a diehard supporter of Manchester United, and, he confesses, Brazil international and PSG forward Neymar is his idol professional footballer.

Early days

Nkinzingabo was more interested in volleyball during his primary school days at GS Camp Kigali, and it was not until he went to APE Rugunga for secondary school studies that he switched to football, mainly because it was the school’s principal sport.

“I started playing serious football in senior two, and I have never looked back since,” he vividly remembers.

Besides representing his school, Nkinzingabo also enrolled at Imena Football Academy, which trained at former Ferwafa artificial turf, in Remera, before being drafted among the most exceptional 30 talents that started with APR academy the following year, in 2010.

In 2012, barely at the age of 15, he joined Isonga FC in the topflight league but spent there only six months as he quickly caught the attention of Ferwafa (the local football association) technical staff and selected him among three promising players who were sent to Academie Futelite-Spain for professional football training, along with Yves Rwigema and Anderson Neza.

The three players, then-teenagers, started their football academy training, in Spain, in the summer of 2013.

However, once in Spain, the trio did not live up to the hype. Nkinzingabo returned in the country after one year and was immediately snatched by APR with on a long-term contract.

Five years at APR

His first year with APR senior team was the 2014/2015 season, and made 27 appearances for the club in all competitions as they clinched the league title and reached the semi-finals of the Peace Cup tournament.

He says that senior players such as Jean Baptiste ‘Migi’ Mugiraneza and Emery Bayisenge, who have also since left the club, played a crucial role in helping him to adapt rapidly.

“APR were the team that I had always dreamt of playing for since I was a kid. And, when I was signed, I knew I needed to work hard to earn my place in the team.”

Nkinzingabo had an impressive first season with the army side, but his shine would slowly decline over the next four years until he was released alongside 15 other players last month.

During his five-year stint with APR, the soft spoken forward featured for the black-and-white outfit in various regional and international competitions such as the CAF Champions League, the CAF Confederation Cup, the East African Military Games and the CECAFA Kagame Cup.

On local scene, he helped the club to three league titles, one Peace Cup silverware and the 2018 Super Cup glory among other notable achievements.

High ambitions with AS Kigali

Nkinzigabo says that his move to AS Kigali is a good opportunity to turn around his career, and has insisted he wants to be a consistent starter in Eric Nshimiyimana’s side who will represent the country in the Confederation Cup in the upcoming 2019/2020 season.

“I want to do so well at AS Kigali to the point that I will not be snubbed in the national team again. It will require significant improvement of my game but I am ready to put in the necessary hard work,” he said.

AS Kigali secured their spot in the CAF Confederation Cup – Africa’s second biggest club competition – after winning the 2019 Peace Cup last month. 

The City of Kigali-sponsored side will start their continental campaign against Tanzania’s KMC in the first round on the weekend of August 9-11.

Nkinzingabo has since 2011 featured for the national teams – at different age levels – from the U17 through to the Olympic (U23) team, but he is yet to receive his first call-up in the senior Amavubi team.