NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 16 – He sank to his knees, said his prayers and lifted his hands up to the sky, showing just how much the Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK)/Kenyan Premier League player of the month for March meant for him.
Sofapaka shot stopper Justin Ndikumana completed a double for Batoto ba Mungu, winning the March award just a week after his boss John Baraza received the coach’s award.
This also adds on to striker Umaru Kasumba winning the February player’s award and Baraza also being among the final shortlisted coaches for that month’s award.
“Such awards boost my confidence and the team at large. I want to thank the entire squad, not just the defense that helped me keep the clean sheets. I feel like I can face any opponent and stand tall in goal and prevent them from scoring,” an excited Ndikumana said as he received his award on Tuesday.
The Burundian shot stopper kept three clean sheets in four matches and conceded only once in a month Batoto ba Mungu showed their title credentials with an imperious performance.
To get the award, Ndikumana trounced KCB’s Bethwel Warambo, Ulinzi’s Enosh Ochieng and reigning player of the year Eric Kapaito to scoop the March gong following a series of heroic goalkeeping for Sofapaka.
He becomes only the second goalkeeper after Gabriel Andika, then with Western Stima, to win the award since its inception five years ago.
“I have been praying that I become the winner this month because I played well and everybody was talking about me. I’m glad I caught the panel’s eyes and so I can look forward to better days,” Ndikumana jubilantly declared
Others to make the final shortlist included current KPL top scorer Allan Wanga of Kakamega Homeboyz and AFC Leopards’ Vincent Oburu.
Ndikumana shoved aside competition to garner 27 points ahead of Warambo and Ochieng who tied at 21 in the final voting done by the SJAK Football Commission.
The keeper arrived at Sofapaka in the beginning of the season from Congolese side St. Elloi Lupopo but had to miss the first five matches of the season due to lateness in getting his paperwork.
But, as soon as he stepped in for his debut against Tusker coming on as a second half substitute, he has proved to be a pillar for the title chasing side.
His performance has caught the eye of national team coach Olivier Niyungeko who told Capital Sport in an exclusive interview with Capital Sports in Cairo that he will be his number one choice at the African Cup of Nations.
“I have been following up his performance and that of Mousa Omar and I must say I am pleased with his progress. He is my number one keeper and getting to see him perform that well gives me joy,” Niyungeko said.
On Burundi’s debut at the Cup of Nations, Ndikumana hopes his side can prove their mettle against giants of African football.
“We are very happy to have made history of joining the big boys up there. The intension is not to just participate but compete for every point and hopefully reach another milestone of getting past group stage,” he quipped.