NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 4 – Gor Mahia right-back Karim Nizigiyimana has opened up about the struggles and hard times he faced during his long injury absence and has admitted that at some point he thought K’Ogalo would drop him when he took long to recover.
Nizgiyimana picked up an ankle injury in October 2017 at the Thika Sub-County Stadium, barely two minutes into the side’s 1-0 loss to the then relegation threatened Mathare United.
He ended up undergoing surgery and he was not able to actively involve himself in football up to August this year when he returned to training with the 17-time Kenyan Premier League champions.
“Were it in another team, I think I would have been dropped in mid-season. I thought at some point Gor would drop me because I was not going to play much because of the injury. But, the chairman was very supportive and even when I wanted to hurry myself back in, he told me not to do so but recover at good pace,” the Burundian told Capital Sport.
“I was receiving my salary every month and in time and the coach also supported me so much and always offered words of encouragement. The players were very supportive too and I felt a lot of love. To some extent, that helped me recover,” added Nizigiyimana.
He joined Gor Mahia at the start of the 2015 season and his brilliance as a marauding right full-back saw him win love among the Gor faithful in his debut season, racking up the highest number of assists in the entire league.
However, injury slowed him down last season but he managed to return just in time to see Gor’s season out, playing in the last two months of the campaign.
“It felt so good coming back. It was such a trying period for me because as a player, I always want to be on the pitch playing. But now, I am so relieved. I have worked hard to get back into match fitness and I thank the coach for giving me some matches to get back on top,” he further added.
Nizigiyimana played in some defining matches including the second leg Mashemeji Derby against arch rivals AFC leopards where they won 2-0 to confirm themselves as KPL champions.
This was Nizigiyimana’s third league title in his four years at Gor.
“It feels great for a player to come back and help the team win something. Though I came late, I thank my colleagues for ensuring the job was done early and winning my third title is so great. Gor Mahia is like home for me and I want to win more,” he further acknowledged.
Apart from playing a role for Gor Mahia’s successful season, the defender also returned to national team duty where he captained his side Burundi against Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon in a 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier, leading established teammates like Stoke City star Saido Berahino.
Burundi played to a 1-1 draw with the hosts Gabon with Berahino putting the Eastern Africans in the lead on his debut for the Swallows before Aubameyang equalized late on.
“It’s such an honor when you come back and then the coach hands you the armband for such a huge match. Playing against Aubameyang was something great and hopefully as Burundi, we can fight to qualify for the AFCON. That will be a good way to end my year,” an ecstatic Nizigiyimana exclaimed.
-Plans for 2019-
His plan for the next season which begins on December 8 is majorly to help Gor defend their league title and also do well in the CAF Champions League with eyes set on the group stage.
He didn’t play a big role in Gor’s Confederations Cup journey that saw them reach the group stages for the first time ever, but he now wants to help the team do even better in the bigger stage, the Champions League.
“We have proved that we are the best team in Kenya and by extension East Africa. Now we have to translate that to continental football and next season, we have to make it to the group stages of the Champions League. We have the ability because we have such a good team,” he further added.
Gor finish their season against 2016 champions Tusker FC in Thika on Sunday and their next big focus now is the historic friendly match against English Premier League side Everton FC at their Goodison Park home-ground in Liverpool.
Nizigiyimana hopes to play a role in the friendly match having been one of the Gor players that starred when the two sides clashed last year at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. He picked praise from ex-Toffees coach Ronald Koeman, currently the boss of the Dutch national team.