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June’s best Niizigiyimana eyes Cecafa crown

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Karim Niizigiyimana poses with his trophy and flatscreen television after being named SportsPesa/SJAK Player of the Month of June on July 16. PHOTO/Courtesy

Karim Niizigiyimana poses with his trophy and flatscreen television after being named SportsPesa/SJAK Player of the Month of June on July 16. PHOTO/Courtesy

NAIROBI, June 16 – Burundian right-back Karim Niizigiyimana has recovered from an ankle injury to hand Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions, Gor Mahia, a timely boost ahead of Cecafa Kagame Cup campaign that kicks-off Saturday in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

Niizigiyimana, who was named the Sport-Pesa/Sports Journalist Player of the Month of June, picked up a knock in their 1-1 draw against Mathare United alongside midfielder, Collins Okoth who is doubtful for the opener against Tanzania titans Yanga.

Speaking after receiving on Thursday before the team departed for Dar, the defender who has been instrumental on the right with five assists in June, was confident the class of 2015 will end the three decade Cecafa trophy drought.

“I’m so happy to receive this award because it’s my first time to be honoured. It will motivate me work harder to ensure we defend the title.

“We are in good form and as we head to Cecafa, we want to show people that we are not only Kenyan Champions but giants in the region too,” the right-back who has developed into a mainstay in the title-chasing Gor’s charge.

“When Abondo was awarded, I felt encouraged and today, I’m very happy to achieve it. I believe in myself but without my teammates, I would not be here. I’m fully fit and ready to face Young Africans,” Niizigiyimana, who has five caps for Burundi, asserted.

The 26-year-old who joined K’Ogalo at the beginning of the season, beat teammate and striker, Michael Olunga to the accolade after collecting five votes from the seven member panel of football writers.

Gor become the first team to produce two winners for the awards launched this term.

Niizigiyimana, who was had stints with Burundi’s Vital ‘O, Rwanda’s APR and DRC’s AS Vita Club set up Olunga’s hat-trick in their 4-1 demolition of Chemelil Sugar before providing assists to Kagere and Haron Shakava in June.

Former player Anthony Akumu’s Al Khartoum of Sudan, Somalia’s Telcom and Zanzibar’s KMKM complete Pool A of the 2015 Cecafa where Gor hope to better last year’s performance where they crashed out in the preliminary stages.

– Quarters dream-

Assistant coach, Frank Ouna said qualification to the quarter-finals would put them in good position to win the title.

“Our target is to get to the next round and we will take it from there. Against Yanga we will start as underdogs but it doesn’t mean we will lose, we will give it our best.

“The first game is very crucial so we will try and win since it will give the players morale.

“Every team is there on merit and they are worth their money. It makes our pool very tough. Everyone is fit to play except Okoth who is set for a final test tomorrow,” Ouna underscored.

“If you tell me I will win Cecafa I will be the happiest man in the world. We want to do it for ourselves and our fans because it’s long time since Gor last won it, I think I was only eight years old,” he added.

Second assistant coach, Bobby Ogolla who was in the victorious class of 1985 that last lifted the regional title when they beat arch rivals, AFC Leopards 2-0 in Sudan, is looking forward to win it as a coach.

“We have conquered Kenya and our aim now is to show people that we are a powerhouse in the region. Tanzania will be a good test to prove to people we can do it. We will take each game at a time.

“I’m optimistic we will do well because we have a good team and the first match against Yanga will really be a gif test to gauge ourselves, we want to go as far as we can and if we win it the title it will be a plus to me since I was the last person to win it as a player,” Ogolla underscored.

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