NAIROBI, Kenya, May 17 – Despite playing second fiddle to Jonathan Nahimana in the entire 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification phase, Sofapaka shot stopper Justin Ndikumana says he is rolling his sleeves to challenge for the number one spot when Burundi plays at the tournament in Egypt next month.
Ndikumana who has been impressive since joining Sofapaka at the start of the new campaign, include earning a player of the month gong in March, believes he has come of age and is equal to the task if given the opportunity.
“I feel that I have improved a lot as a player since I joined Sofapaka because I have played regularly and also, I have done well for the team so far. The award I got in March was no fluke and it is such that encourage me to work harder and wear the number one jersey,” Ndikumana told Capital Sport.
The keeper arrived at Sofapaka at the end of November from DR Congo top side St. Elloi Lupopo.
Despite taking long to make his debut due to a delay in paperwork, the keeper ultimately made his mark, making Batoto ba Mungu’s number one shirt his own.
He made his debut coming on as a second half substitute against Tusker on January 5, coming on for the injured Richard Aimo with Sofapaka already losing 3-2. He went on to keep a clean sheet.
Since then, Ndikumana has started the subsequent 24 league matches, keeping 13 clean sheets in those 24. He hopes that he can translate this form into the national team and as well help The Swallows get into the round of 16 at the Cup of Nations.
‘We are not going to Cairo as visitors but we are going there to compete. We have shown what we can do in the qualifiers and we want to show the rest of the continent that we are a big team. In the least, our target will be to get to the round of 16,” Ndikumana opined.
Burundi are in a tough group for the Cup of Nations as they have been drawn in Group B together with Nigeria, fellow debutants Madagascar and Paul Put’s Guinea.
“It is a tough group but they are men like we are. It is only 90 minutes on the pitch that will talk. We are ready for them and will give our best to see to it that we show the world what Burundi is capable of,” the keeper added.
Meanwhile, before he can focus on the Cup of Nations with Burundi, Ndikumana will keep his focus on the Kenyan premier League where he hopes to help the team to finish second after the KPL title slipped away from their hands.
“We lost to Gor Mahia last weekend and that essentially meant that our campaign was over. That is behind our backs, we now focus on the remaining part of the season. These four games that remain are crucial for us and we need to ensure we win,” stated Ndikumana.
Sofapaka travel to Bungoma to take on Nzoia Sugar on Saturday.