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Football - Burundi: More than 20 players desert the league and spark a debate

Football - Burundi: More than 20 players desert the league and spark a debate

The Burundi Football League kicks off this Friday, August 18, 2023, in a very special context, with some 20 players leaving the league for Rwanda. Among coaches, players and soccer fans, this exodus is the subject of much debate.

Will Burundi's league lose its edge?

This Friday, August 18, sees the start of the Burundi Football Championship 2023-2024 edition. The opening match will pit Burundi Sport Dynamique against Olympic Sport. It will take place at the Urunani stadium in Buganda, in the Cibitoke province in western Burundi, at 11 GMT. But this season, the Burundi championship has lost around twenty players to Rwanda. This exodus of some of the country's best players has sparked debate in this small East African country.

Fans of Burundi's various teams believe that it will be difficult to replace some of their team's key players who have gone off to where the grass is greener. "We've lost three of our team's best players. And I don't see how we're going to replace them. They left at the wrong time, as we're already qualified for the African Champions League. Our teams don't have the means to compete with those from Rwanda," laments Minani Edmond, a fervent Bumamuru fan.

Messager fan Thierry Nduwayo also regrets that his team has lost several quality players. "It's difficult if not impossible to replace our goalkeeper, Onésime Rukundo, Burundi's number one, for example.For the others, it's possible to tinker, but as far as the goalkeeper is concerned, frankly we've lost one of our most valuable players. I think it's going to cost us dearly."

Radjabu Nzohabonayo, a former Vital'o player, believes that these departures are a chance for the players who remain in the Burundian league to show their worth. "Burundian footballers are not well paid. Very few receive a salary of 100 euros a month. If they then have the chance to earn more than 1,000 euros a month, I think it's time to go for it."He asks the teams' supporters not to be selfish and to understand that these players need to prepare for their future. As for the quality of the championship, he hopes that Burundi's numerous coaches will play their part in promoting other young talents.

Coaches not worried

Jimmy Ndayizeye, coach of Messager Ngozi, is not worried by the departure of so many players to Rwanda, even though he has lost several players from his squad. "We don't have any stars in Burundi.The players in our league are almost at the same level. The difference is not huge.We have to expect this wave of players going abroad every year until we have the means to retain them.For the time being, the money from transfers made by the teams will help us to recruit promising youngsters here at home to stay competitive.I'm sure that the championship won't lose its value because of these departures," he says.

Ismael Nduwantare, coach of Lydia Lucic Burundi Amasipiri, agrees with his counterpart."We have a lot of talent in Burundi. I'm sure that others will quickly emerge and take the place of those who have left. In fact, it's our role to train."

Players happy to discover another league

A number of players currently in Rwanda told SNA they were happy to discover another league after several years at home."I had nothing left to prove in Burundi.It was time for me to go elsewhere to discover another championship. I ended up in Rwanda and I'm proud of it. I can't wait to prove what I can do," says Onésime Rukundo, a Burundian international goalkeeper who now plays for Police FC.

Akbar Mudeli is also looking forward to starting out with his new club Gasogi United."From a young age, I've only played in Burundi. I'd like to thank the club president for giving me this opportunity.It's a league with a lot of experienced players and I think I want to take advantage of it to grow."

Even if the coaches seem to be downplaying the impact of these departures on the Burundi championship, it will be difficult to replace the twenty or so seasoned players in the immediate future. In fact, of the 37 players called up to prepare for the match against Cameroon in the final qualifier for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, seven will come from Rwanda and three from the Burundian league.Of the seven, six took part in Burundi's victory over Namibia in June, while none of the three who play for Burundi played in that match.A clear indication of the quality of the players who have left Burundi's soccer league this year.

SNA tells you more!

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