Emery Mvuyekure’s first call-up to Amavubi since 2014 was probably the main – but, certainly not the only – talking point to emerge from Vincent Mashami’s team selection last week.
While the Tusker FC goalkeeper was recalled, and a number of young players – such as APR defender Prince Buregeya – received their first call-up, skipper Haruna Niyonzima was once again left out of the Amavubi squad that face Côte d’Ivoire in an AFCON 2019 qualifier on Saturday.
Overlooking the 29-year-old, who has captained Amavubi since 2013, was perhaps expected as this was the second time in a row Mashami has dropped him for the right reasons.
Niyonzima also missed out last November when Rwanda and Central African Republic played out a 2-all draw at Huye Stadium.
At Tanzanian giants Simba SC, the midfielder has failed to break into the starting eleven since his knee surgery in India in March 2018.
The former Rayon Sports and APR playmaker has been inconsistent in form and fitness since his 2017 move to SC Simba from Young Africans. May be the right question would be: will he ever get another shot at Amavubi’s armband or could this mean the end of his international football career?
Following his poor performance against Guinea – Group H leaders in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers – last October, Niyonzima left many fans fuming and calling for his retirement from the national team, critics he slammed saying that he was not a ‘done article’ yet and had no plans to hang his boots any time soon.
Niyonzima is looking, more and more, like a yesterday’s man despite all he has achieved, and there’s a cloud of un-fulfillment that hangs over his career.
If there is still anything for him to offer, his contribution to the national team will be contingent on his staying fit and getting more playing time at club level. He was a second-half substitute on Sunday as Simba beat DR Congo’s AS Vita Club 2-1 in Dar es Salaam to storm the quarter-finals of the 2018-19 CAF Champions League.
Whatever happens in the future, Niyonzima remains the most gifted footballer the country has had in the last ten years.