CAIRO, Egypt, Jun 21 – Three Kenyan Premier League players will be on show when Burundi make their debut at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with their Group B opening game against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in Alexandria on Saturday night.
Gor Mahia’s Francis Mustafa as well as the Sofapaka duo of keeper Justin Ndikumana and Mousa Omar are part of Burundi’s squad for the tournament in Cairo and speaking to Capital Sport, the three aim to give their best and see their country succeed.
“It is great thing to be here for the tournament and we have prepared very well for it. We are not here to tour; we are here to show that we have the ability and we qualified by merit,” Gor Mahia’s Mustafa stated.
He added; “We have a tough opening game against Nigeria. We know they are a good team and have been champions before but we are not playing against names. They have two legs, we have two legs and we will fight it off on the pitch for 90 minutes.”
Mustafa hasn’t really kicked in well since joining Gor towards the end of last season and this has been mostly due to a positional switch. While at Gor he plays as a centre forward, he is employed as a holding midfielder at national team level and that is where he has flourished.
At the same time, goalkeeper Justin Ndikumana is hopeful that the team can get to the round of 16 in the least, saying he believes the team has prepared well.
The Sofapaka shot stopper was handed a starting role in the team’s final warm up match against Tunisia in Rades, a match they lost 2-1 conceding a late goal. He is competing for a starting slot with Tanzania based Jonathan Nahimana.
If given a chance, Ndikumana says he will put in his best to ensure the Swallows make an impression.
“Football is like a party and we are here to show our talents. We worked so hard to qualify for the tournament and now that we have achieved that target, it is time to prove that we are here by merit. We have prepared well and I believe with the strategy we have, we can make history,” Ndikumana noted.
The Burundian team is laden with players who have previously plied their trade in Kenya and on top of the two, there is third choice keeper Arthur Arakaza, former Sofapaka forward Abdul Razak Fiston and former Gor Mahia right back Karim Nizigiyimana.
Nizigiyimana left Gor for Ugandan side Vipers at the beginning of last season and skippered the Burundians to the Cup of Nations.
He however struggled with injury for most of 2017 but slowly came back to action towards the end of last season. His lack of regular first team football led him to leave for Vipers where he says he has played enough and is back to his best.
The marauding right back believes this upcoming AFCON is his chance to prove that he is back to the top of his game.
I have settled well in Vipers and playing a whole season has been good for me. I believe I am back to the Karim that people knew at Gor and I have trained well for this AFCON and I will indeed show that I am back,” Nizigiyimana told Capital Sport.
He added; “As a team I believe we are ready. We have played very tough friendly games and they have made us toughen up.”