Amavubi Head Coach,Eric Nshimiyimana
Amavubi head coach Eric Nshimiyimana is very optimistic Rwanda will stage a good outing in this year’s edition of the Cecafa Challenge Cup due to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from November 27 to December 12.
“The level at which these boys has elevated is very pleasing. I am confident we will have a triumphant tournament. We are looking forward to the tournament with optimism, we are having good preparations and I believe we will give it our best shot,”
The draws for the upcoming Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup were made in Nairobi just 30 hours before Rwanda faced Uganda in an international friendly game last Saturday at Namboole stadium in Kampala.
On learning that the Amavubi would face Uganda in the group stages of the annual regional tournament that will be hosted in Kenya from November 27-December 12, the Rwanda head coach Eric Nshimiyimana said, “It will be a tough group but we are ready for the challenge and hope that we perform well as expected.”
Rwanda is in Group C with the 13-time record and reigning champions Uganda, Sudan and Eritrea while Group B has the former Africa Cup of Nations winners Zambia, Burundi, Tanzania and Somalia. The hosts Kenya, Zanzibar, Ethiopia and newcomers South Sudan were placed in Group A.
Asked about his assessment of Amavubi’s Group C opponents, the coach said his team was ready for any side.
“Certainly we don’t take anyone for granted, but neither are we intimidated by anyone. We may be wary of an opponent or two but they too may be worried about us,” he said.
On his team’s chances of progressing from the group, Nshimiyimana said: “It’s a difficult but open group, anyone can beat anyone.”
Nshimiyimana has long experience in Cecafa games both as a player and coach. He said Rwanda’s performance in Cecafa over the years is generally good.
“We may have won the title only once (in 1999) but overall our record in the tournament is not so bad, we have always progressed from the group stage and have also played in a couple of finals but without much success,” he reflected.
Nshimiyimana will head to the regional tournament minus APR’s striker Michel Ndahinduka due to injury but he has opted to use the duo of Jacques Tuyisenge of Police and Meddie Kagere of Rayon Sport up front.
Amavubi will also be without retired skipper Olivier Karekezi who will not don the yellow and blue jersey for Rwanda in 13 years since he made his debut in 2000 without the reason being injury worries.
That he will be absent from the line-up and bench, marks the dawn of a new era for the national football team. The 30-year old Karekezi who represented Rwanda at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations called it quits this August and hang his boots from international duty.
His retirement could not come at a much better time as the current national side boasts some of the Junior Wasps that featured at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico and several youngsters with the average age being 22 years.
Karekezi who scored a total of 25 goals for Rwanda at all events since 2000 is currently playing for CA Bizertin in Tunisia where his contract will end in 2015. He mentioned earlier this year that he wants to go into football coaching.
Meanwhile, Niyonzima who took after him said that they are trying to adapt even though it’s not easy at all. “We have played two games without him so far and we are adjusting to his absence. However, we shall miss him as a captain because we all grew up looking up to him.”
Rwanda’s midfield maestro Niyonzima’s leadership skills will be put to test later this month at the Cecafa tournament to see whether he can attain glory, the kind that has eluded this nation.
The opening match will be between Kenya and Ethiopia on November 27. Rwanda will play their first match against Uganda on November 29, then against Sudan three days later before taking on Eritrea on December 5.
Recent attempts have seen the Amavubi come as close as winning the title in 2011 in Dar es Salaam with a penalty shootout against Uganda in the final but experience and luck seemed to grant the record champions their 12th title then.
Nshimiyimana, then working in an interim capacity, guided Rwanda to the 2009 Cecafa Challenge Cup final in Kenya which the Amavubi Stars lost to Uganda Cranes 2-0.
Last year, the Amavubi were shocked by Tanzania in the quarterfinals in a 2-1 loss but Nshimiyimana believes that the results could be different in this campaign but he is quick to admit that it will be a tough tournament.
Knee injury sidelines APR midfielder Nsabimana until mid next year
The APR FC and U-20 Wasps midfielder Eric Nsabimana, who suffered a serious knee injury in August this year, will be sidelined until at least July, next year.
Nsabimana becomes the second top Turbo King Football League player certain to miss the 2013/14 season after Rwanda international and Rayon Sports’ defender Faustin Usengimana.
Nsabimana tore his knee ligaments in August while on duty with the national team during the 2013 Francophone Games, which were held in Nice, France.
“Now I feel better than one or two months before and hope to come back to my best sometime mid next year, probably by July I should be able play,” he said.
That means the injury rules him out of the whole of the current season, a major setback for a player who is highly rated.
Another young star whose season was cut short with a bad injury is Rayon Sports’ central defender Faustin Usengimana, who suffered a devastating double fracture in the right leg on the first day of the season.
Both players have to start on physiotherapy after which they will undergo muscle rehabilitation, strengthening, and sport-specific rehabilitation before they could be declared fit to return to full training.
Usengimana will is also certain to miss CAF Champions League and the early rounds of the Peace Cup competition.
It’s the second time that Usengimana has suffered a serious injury.
In 2011, a knee injury ruled him out of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup finals in Mexico after playing just 20 minutes in the second group stage match against Uruguay.
He made a comeback after nearly eight months when he joined Isonga before returning to Rayon Sports a season later, whom he then helped them to their first league title in nine years last season.