The rise and rise of setter Eugene Tuyishime

Eugene Tuyishime (left, first row) helped Rayon Sports to win three titles -- the Genocide Memorial Tournament and one Carre d’As -- during his two-year spell with the club. File.

Eugene Tuyishimwe is one of the best – and arguably the most consistent – setters the country has produced over the last two decades.

The former University of Rwanda, UNIK and national team setter – currently featuring for champions Gisagara is making his 18th season in domestic top tier volleyball league, making the most senior player in the championship.

The 32-year-old made his league debut in 2001 while he played for secondary school side Huye-based Petit Seminaire Virgo Fidelis Karubanda.

In an exclusive interview on Thursday, Tuyishime, who started playing volleyball at the age of 13, revealed to Saturday Sportthat his favourite stars were now-retired Rwanda icons Elie Mutabazi and Jean Luc Ndayikengurukiye.

Star volleyball player Eugene Tuyishimwe is also a medical doctor. Courtesy.

He says that: “Their contribution to local volleyball development, and impact they have had on younger generations is a great legacy. I admired them very much, and they made me learn a lot.

“My love for the sport was largely inspired by the two legends.”

Tuyishime is the last man standing, in competitive volleyball among the players with whom they made their league debut the same year.

A graduate from the University of Rwanda in general medicine and surgery, and master’s degree holder in Global Health Delivery from the University of Global Health Equity, Tuyishime has always been to able to strike balance between his busy work, studies and volleyball career.

Born on July 28, 1986 in Huye District, Tuyishime helped Gigasara to their triumphant campaign last month when they clinched the inaugural CAVB Zone V Men’s Club Championships title after edging local rivals Rwanda Energy Group in the final at Amahoro stadium.

Early days

In his youth days, like most kids at that age, Tuyishime aspired to be a professional footballer and featured for his primary school team in inter-school competitions. However, he quickly ditched it for volleyball when he joined Virgo Fidelis secondary school.

“Volleyball was the school’s favourite and best performance sport, that’s how I ended up joining it. I fell in love with the sport in a matter of months, and started featuring for the school in different competitions,” he vividly remembers.

The star setter propelled his former school to a record three consecutive titles (2003-2005) of the national inter-school championship in boys’ volleyball.

League debut

Soft-spoken Tuyishime made his national volleyball league debut during the 2001 season with Virgo Fidelis, a team he would feature for until 2005.

The youthful side were always among the back-raw performers in the championship, with their best position being a fourth during the 2004 season.

Two spells – and two league titles – at NUR

After four seasons with Virgo Fidelis, Tuyishime was without a club for the 2005/2006 season before joining the National University of Rwanda (NUR) where he won one Carre d‘As (2008) title and one league title (2010) during his first stint with the versity side.

He crossed to league rivals UNIK after the 2011 season, and featured for the Ngoma District-based side for one (2012) season before rejoining NUR for the 2013 season, and helping them to their first league title in three years after beating then two-time reigning champion APR.

“I think I had the best days of my career at NUR. The friendship and passion for volleyball made us a strong team, but also pushed us to improve every day,” says Tuyishime.

“Our rivalry with APR was very special. It made local volleyball fun and competitive.”

Move to Rayon, rejoining UNIK and life at Gisagara

After a successful second spell with NUR, Tuyishime was one of the star players that were signed by then debutants, and now-defunct, Rayon Sports volleyball club in 2014. He served the team for two seasons before being signed back at UNIK.

During his two-year stay with Rayon, he helped the club to finish second in the league twice, and win two major titles; the Genocide Memorial Tournament in 2014 and the 2015 Carre d’As.

At UNIK, during his second spell, he won his third league title in 2016, this time helping the University of Kibungo (formerly INATEK) to the last of their two league titles in a row.

Since September 2017, Tuyishime plays for Gisagara – which he joined after four months with Canadian amateur side Tigers – and has since helped them to a number of titles including the 2017/2018 league and Carre d’As titles.

Duties in the national team

Despite his extensive career, Tuyishime did not receive a call-up to the national team until 2013 during preparations for the CAVB Zone V Cup of Nations, and unfortunately didn’t make it to the final team that won the title at Amahoro Indoor Stadium.

However, he was part of the team that traveled to Cameroon the following year in qualifiers for the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship, which was hosted and won by Poland after defeating then defending champions Brazil in the final.

Rwanda eventually did not qualify for the world’s biggest volleyball event.

Tuyishimwe made his last appearance in national colours during the 2015 Men’s African Volleyball Championship in Egypt where Rwanda finished sixth out of nine nations in the competition. The hosts Egypt beat Tunisia in the final to lift the title.

What teammates say about him

Emile Karera is a longtime friend of Tuyishime and the two have been teammates at different clubs, including at Gisagara at the moment, and formerly at Rayon Sports and the national team.

“He is a man with principles and contagious positive mentality. he’s kind, friendly and gifted with influential leadership.”