ALICE Kalimba is a famous name in Rwanda women’s football, and it is not by accident.
The midfielder is one of the best female footballers in the country for the past five or so years, not only at her club where she has helped the City of Kigali-sponsored side to win the league title back-to-back since 2013 but also in the national women’s football team – She-Amavubi.
Despite finishing at the bottom of the five-nation CECAFA Senior Women Challenge in Kigali last week, Kalimba was a key member of She-Amavubi and one of the best midfielders in the tournament. Tanzania retained the crown, followed by Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya in that order.
AS Kigali women’s football team captain since last year, Kalimba guided the yellow and green outfit to a record-extending 10th league title, only losing one game throughout the season.
Saturday Sport interviewed the sensational midfielder on Thursday this week.
Who is Kalimba?
Born Alice Kalimba on November 11, 1998 in Gasabo District, to Bernard Kalimba and Groliose Ntakirutimana, she is the last born in from a family of eight – four boys and four girls.
She attended Kacyiru Primary School in Kigali before going to Remera Rukoma Secondary School in Kamonyi District for her O’Level studies and switching to Solidarity Academy in Nyarugenge District for her A’Level studies majoring in electricity.
However, she moved to ADB Nyarutarama after senior four where she earned her high school certificate of completion in 2016. She is yet to enroll to university.
As a child, Kalimba never thought she would become the star football player she is today, until, she joined secondary school at Remera Rukoma in 2010 where the sport was popular.
“I used to love and follow football more than any other discipline but I never thought I would turn into an obsessed football player i am today,” Kalimba told Saturday Sport.
She added: “I was very much into football more than any other discipline, mostly watching it, and occasionally played it for fun until my primary school football team coach, Jean Paul (Muhoza) noticed my talent and encouraged me to take it more seriously and I didn’t hesitate. Today, I look back and say, his advice changed my life.”
Secondary school success
Kalimba helped her then new school Remera Rukomo to win the girls’ football title in the national inter-schools championships in 2012. She also led the school to their first appearance in FEASSSA Games held in Lira, in the northern Uganda.
After playing FEASSSA Games, former AS Kigali coach Grace Nyinawumuntu scouted her and shortly signed the then 14-year old youngster on a two-year contract.
Mostly used as a second team player or first team substitute, Kalimba was part of the AS Kigali squad that claimed the 2012-2013 league title.
Life at AS Kigali
From 2013, after her maiden season with the club, Kalimba is a key member of AS Kigali women’s football club and one of the longest serving members of the national team.
The 19-year old midfielder has now won six league titles with the City of Kigali side, out of ten titles the club has reclaimed year after year since 2009 when they dethroned APR – now defunct.
In the recently concluded 2017-18 season, she inspired her side to overcome archrivals Scandinavia WFC 1-0 in the league’s winner-take-all final game to lift the title.
Last year, barely aged 18, she was named captain of the team.
Her current contract with AS Kigali expires next year after the 2018/2019 season and the former Kacyiru Primary School pupil says she is open to discussing a new contract.
Duties in national team
She made her first appearance for the national team in 2014, and was part of She-Amavubi that played the qualifiers of the 2014 Africa Women Championship finals.
At the CECAFA Senior Women Challenge 2016 edition told in Uganda, she was part of She-Amavubi that were eliminated in the group stage after suffering identical 3-2 defeats to Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Last month, at this year’s CECAFA tournament staged at Kigali Stadium, Kalimba was the lone scorer as Rwanda upset Tanzania in their opening game.
How did she manage to mix football and school?
“To succeed in class and be a star on the pitch is possible but very hard to balance, especially when football is already your job, but the same goes for work, friends, family because life is all about balancing time, that’s how I did it, she said.