Football may be the country’s most controversial sports and the most underperforming but ironically, the discipline remains the most popular – with the most renowned athletes.
In today’s issue, Saturday Sport profiles Soter Kayumba, Rwanda international and AS Kigali’s defensive kingpin.
The 25-year old AS Kigali skipper is one of the country’s most celebrated and most consistent defenders, at least in the last four years with AS Kigali and the national team – Amavubi Stars.
Who is Kayumba?
Born on April 20, 1993 to Brigitte Nyirabenda and Stanislas Kayumba in Nyanza District, Kayumba is the last born from a family of seven – six boys and one girl.
He attended Kamira Primary School in Nyanza District, went the Ngara Secondary School in Nyamagabe district first O’level studies before switching to Ecole de Science Nyagisenyi (also in Nyamagabe) for A’level studies where he majored in Mathematics-Chemistry- Biology.
However, the vastly talented defender moved to Rubavu-based College Inyemeramihigo after senior four from where he earned his secondary school certificate of completion in 2009.
Kayumba is now a graduate from Kigali Independent University (ULK) in finance.
Sensational Kayumba regards late Bonaventure ‘Gangi’ Hategekimana as the legend who inspired him the most as a defender and a leader on pitch. On global scene, he looks up to France’s Ligue 1 Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil defender Thiago Silva.
“I would say football is embedded in my genes. I remember that in my childhood, I would escaped school several times to play football and I was punished (by my father) every time but I never gave up. The sport has been part of my life since boyhood,” Kayumba narrates.
He further told Saturday Sport, “As a young kid, I loved football so much that I stayed awake late at night watching soccer on TV when everyone else at home was asleep,” he recalled.
Because of his obsession with football, talent and hard work, his efforts paid off in 2008. The then 15-year old Kayumba was scouted to join Rubavu-based Stella Football Academy.
Life at SEC Academy and topflight league debut
After close to two years at Stella, Kayumba was hijacked by Kicukiro-based SEC Academy then under the coaching of Andre Casa Mbungo.
However, the fast-rising teenager would only play for the second division football league side for one season before joining Etincelles FC, the club that offered him his first official contract and first player license to the topflight football league.
“Besides my current club (AS Kigali), I had my best footballing days at Etincelles, a club that offered me everything as their son although I spent there one season. I grew and learned a lot from there as a person and as a footballer,” Kayumba remembers.
Move and responsibilities at AS Kigali
After one year at Etincelles, Cassa Mbungo had also left SEC Academy for AS Kigali as head coach, which influenced his decision to rejoin him at the end of the 2011/2012 season.
In his first season with the City of Kigali-sponsored side, Kayumba helped the club to win their first major title in ten years – the 2013 Peace Cup title.
Then under coach Casa Mbungo, AS Kigali thrashed AS Muhanga 3-0 in the final to win the country’s second biggest football tournament.
He also marked his debut in continental football with the club, at the 2014 CAF Confederation Cup. AS Kigali were eliminated in the second round after losing 3-0 to Morocco’s Difaâ Hassani D’el Jadida.
Thanks to his skilful play at the heart of AS Kigali’s defense, calmness and his unrivaled leadership capabilities, Kayumba is also the club’s captain for the last three years.
He guided the Nyamirambo-based side to finishing second at the recently concluded 2017-18 regular league season with 61 points, five adrift of champions APR and nine ahead of second runners-up Rayon Sports. His former side, Etincelles, completed top four with 51 points.
After six years at the club, his current contract with AS Kigali ends with this July and says he is open to discussing renewal or moving anywhere else.
Kayumba has not always been a regular in the national team but is one of the senior players in Amavubi, having received his first international cap in 2011 then under Serbian Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojević in preparations for the 2011 CECAFA Senior Challenge held in Tanzania.
In 2014, he was named on the national Olympic team for qualifiers of Africa Cup of Nations.
Last December, Kayumba was part of Amavubi that were unceremoniously eliminated from Group Stages at the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge staged in Kenya.
He also was part of the very team that was knocked out from preliminary round at this year’s African Nations Championship in Morocco.
Best and worst of his career
Kayumba says he has had a lot of ups and downs in his career but still nothing beats the feeling he had when he made his topflight league debut with Etincelles in 2011.
“In the very season, we played APR and held them to a 1-all draw, and I was the goal-scorer for Etincelles. That’s how I received my first call in the national senior team,” he vividly remembers.
As of his worst experience so far, Kayumba says the nightmare of Rwanda’s stoppage-time elimination from the 2018 African Nations Championship finals in Morocco still hurts him.
Amavubi played Libya in their last group game, well knowing that they needed a draw to progress to quarter-finals. However, Libya upset Rwanda in the dying seconds of the clash to snatch the ticket in a winner-take-all clash between the two countries.