Niyonzima calls for fans’ backing at Ivory Coast clash

Niyonzima (left) and his teammates during a training session at Kigali Stadium. Sam Ngendahimana.


Group H
Rwanda Vs Ivory Coast 15:30
Guinea Vs CAR 16:30

HARUNA Niyonzima, the captain of the national football team – Amavubi – has appealed to football fans and Rwandans at large, to turn up in big numbers to support the Wasps as they bid to sting Ivory Coast come Sunday at Kigali Stadium.

Rwanda will be hosting Les Elephants of Ivory Coast in a Group H clash of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.

Niyonzima, 28, a star midfielder with Tanzania champions Simba was speaking during an interview with Times Sport on Thursday.

“We need the fans to turn up for the game against Ivory Coast and show support to the players. We value our fans, strongly rallying behind us during the match will add to the home advantage we already have – we take them as our 12th player on the pitch,” the former Rayon Sports and APR playmaker said.

The skipper further said that they are training hard for victory and that morale in the team is high.

Rwanda hopes to make the most of the new AFCON format which will see an increase of teams that participate in the finals to 24 up from 16, which means the top two teams in each group will qualify.

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, also known as the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, will be the 32nd edition of the biennial continental football event. Rwanda has only been to AFCON finals once – at the 2004 edition in Tunisia.

Ivory Coast jet in

In the meantime, Ivory Coast arrived in Kigali on Thursday night ahead of the much-anticipated AFCON qualifier against Vincent Mashami’s side.

The 23-man delegation arrived at Kigali International Airport at 21pm aboard a private jet from Monaco in France, joining Manchester United defender Eric Baily who is in the country since Tuesday.

The delegation is led by the Ivorian Football Federation’s president, Augustin Sidy Diallo, who was welcomed by his Rwandan counterpart Brig Gen (retired) Jean Damascene Sekamana.

Ivory Coast’s star-studded squad includes some of the familiar Europe-based names such as; Maxime Alain Gradel of Toulouse, Serge Aurier (Tottenham), Frank Kessie of AC Milan, Michel Serri of Fulham, and Serre Die of FC Basel.