Bikes, balls, boots with Nkurunziza: Burundi's sportsman president

If fitness was a measure of how long a leader stayed, Pierre would outlive a sizeable number of those still in charge.

Pierre Nkurunziza on June 8 joined the list of African leaders who died whiles in office. He entered the category at a time he was lacing – maybe unlacing – his boots to leave office. Death caught him in office.

Aside the news of his loss to cardiac arrest according to the official government account, you are likely to find conspiracy theories about what exactly led to his demise, some reports pointing to COVID-19.

Nkurunziza articles have since 2015 being synonymous with his refusal to step down, the controversial third term, the ensuing chaos – bloodshed and displacement, a 2018 referendum and his decision to quit even when he could have carried on.

But in this article, we sit out the over-reported politics of Nkurunziza over his 15-year reign but focus rather on the lighter side of the president – sides which have often been mired in some amount of controversy – we look at the rider and footballer in the former president.

Young sporty president rises to power

Ascending to power at the age of 40, he was undoubtedly one of the youngest across the continent at the time. He rose to the role from being a rebel leader but one that came in with sporting credentials.

Nkurunziza was a former sports teacher at a university. A Reuters report described him as a lifelong fitness coach and football enthusiast. As president, he still played football and coached his team, Halleluya FC. He often wore the club’s track suit during outings.

But that came with its own set of controversies, a key one being how in 2018 a number of opponents in a football match were picked up for rough tackling the president .It was also during his tenure that Burundi qualified for her first African Cup of Nations in Egypt 2019.

Football, Pierre’s passion, actually sought to intervene in the post-2015 political crisis after it emerged in 2016 that the then FIFA president Sepp Blatter had offered Nkurunziza a top post in exchange for quitting the presidency.

A president who loved his bike

To the cycling tracks, Nkurunziza undoubtedly loved his bicycle. It was often his preferred mode of transport when he was going to cast his ballots – during 2010 vote, the 2018 referendum and in the last elections.

He was also a patron of the Tour de Burundi event during which he usually pedaled off the competition – a typical case in point being in 2018. But beyond the voting booth, he is on record to have cycled to his farm and to other events – of course under heavy security.

In 2017, photos were shared on social media showing the president out cycling with an armed convoy driving behind him. Wearing his helmet, Nkurunziza was pictured on what seemed to be a major road with some residents watching him from the sides of the road.

One can think of a few other African leaders being as sporty as Pierre. In the region, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni often rides his bike to farm and recently shared keep fitness tips for citizens under lockdown.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa often goes for walks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018 engaged rioting soldiers in a press-up contest, Tanzania’s John Magufuli, five years ago, did press ups on the campaign trail; we wait to see if re-election will push him to offer a new round.

Burundi in political flux navigating post Nkurunziza-era

The government statement announcing his death confirmed that he watched a game of volleyball on Saturday, June 6 – pictures were shared by national broadcaster – but fell ill that night and was taken to hospital in Karuzi in central Burundi.

His health improved on Sunday but “surprisingly, on morning of Monday June 8, 2020, his health suddenly deteriorated and he had a heart attack.” Doctors provided “cardiopulmonary resuscitation” for hours but were unable to save him.

His last cabinet meeting was on May 27, his last tweet was a day before. A message posted in French congratulating Evariste Ndayishimiye, the president-elect who was due to take over from him in August. A week of national mourning is underway, cabinet is seeking judicial interpretation on who leads the transition but for ordinary citizens it is time to look into the post-Nkurunziza era.

One thing is sure, that Pierre for all the zigzag that characterized his 15-years in charge was one of, if not Africa’s most sporty leader by a mile. If fitness was a measure of how long a leader stayed, Pierre would outlive a sizeable number of those still in charge.

Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban

Digital journalist, Africanews


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DRC gets first woman to head large football club [Football Planet]

Bestine Kazadi is taking over leadership of a team that has been on tabs with the successes of TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi

The game is slowly but surely getting dominated by women… In the Democratic Republic of Congo, one woman has just moved to manage one of the country’s large football clubs – AS Vita in Kinshasa.

Bestine Kazadi is taking over leadership of a team that has been on tabs with the successes of TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi. Her predecessor was president for 13 years and she is the first woman at the top of the club since it was created in 1935.

This and other highlights including the additional time for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations hosts as the tournament is pushed to January 2022 to their relief, plus highlights from around Europe to see how African players are performing in Serie A, Premier League, and La Liga

Ex-marathon runner, Kenya's Kipsang banned for doping

Kipsang won bronze in the marathon at the 2012 London Olympic. He broke the world record the following year in Berlin.

Kenya’s world record holder Wilson Kipsang has been slapped with a four year ban from competitions after missing series of doping tests.

A ruling published by the Athletics Integrity Unit on Friday states that the ex-marathon runner was found to have missed three tests.

He failed to provide timely information on his whereabouts on a fourth occasion, in 2018 and 2019.

Kipsang won bronze in the marathon at the 2012 London Olympic. He broke the world record the following year in Berlin.

The athlete held the record until Dennis Kimetto bettered his time the year after. Kipsang has won the New York and Tokyo Marathons and won the London Marathon twice.


AFCON moved to 2022, delayed CHAN slated for Jan. 2021

AFCON to be played in 2022, CHAN 2020 slated for January 2021.

The Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football, CAF, has announced the postponement of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON to January 2022 citing the coronavirus pandemic.

The tournament had been scheduled to take place between January and February next year. The football governing body, however decided that the local version of the AFCON, the Championship of African Nations, CHAN, will take place in January 2021.

It had originally been slated to be played in April this year. Both competitions will be hosted by Cameroon.

In a March 2020 announcement suspending the 2020 CHAN, CAF Organizing after a meeting in Cameroon cited amongst others, the confinement of population in many countries, restrictions imposed on grouping of teams and officials and the closure of borders as well as disruptions in air links between many countries as factors.

At the time, the decision followed the postponement of the AFCON 2021 qualifiers by CAF. The African football governing body had earlier this year decided to maintain the organization of its competitions.

Decisions of CAF Executive Meeting – 30 June 2020

The committee decided as follows;

Total Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021

After consultation with stakeholders and taking into consideration the current global situation, the tournament has been rescheduled for January 2022. The date for the final tournament and the remaining matches of the qualifiers will be communicated in due course.

Total African Nations Championship (CHAN) Cameroon 2020

The final tournament has been postponed till January 2021 in Cameroon.

“The CAF Executive Committee is satisfied with t the Cameroonian authorities for their commitment towards the hosting of the two competitions. Cameroon is ready to host either competition and are within schedule,” CAF President Ahmad Ahmad said.

Interclubs 2019/20 season

The Total CAF Champions League and Total CAF Confederation Cup, will resume in September with a Final Four (4) format. Semi-Final matches will be played in a single match.

Total CAF Champions League = Venue for Final Four to be decided

Total CAF Confederation Cup = Morocco will host the Final Four

Total Women’s Africa Cup of Nations 2020

Due to challenging conditions, the 2020 edition of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations has been cancelled.

Meanwhile, the CAF Women’s Champions League will be launched in 2021. The format and other details will be communicated in due course.

Zonal Qualifiers for U-20 & U-17 Africa Cup of Nations

A meeting with the Organising Competitions for Youth Football and the Zonal Unions has been proposed to finalize the arrangements for the zonal qualifiers. Meanwhile, the U-17 AFCON will take place in July 2021.

Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations 2020

Following the withdrawal of Uganda, a new hosting bid will be launched for the organization of the final tournament either in 2020 or 2021.

Headquarters Agreement

CAF President Ahmad Ahmad commended the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt under the leadership of His Excellency Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who appended his signature to the 10-year agreement on 24 June 2020.

With the new agreement, CAF and its officials will benefit from immunities and privileges granted to diplomatic missions in the territory of the Arab Republic of Egypt in accordance with the 1961 Vienna Convention.

CAF Ordinary General Assembly

The 42nd CAF Ordinary General Assembly has been rescheduled for December 2020 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As per the recommendations of the CAF Governance Committee, the Elective General Assembly will be held on 12 March 2021.

CAF Awards 2020

Cancellation of the 2020 edition. Major partners for the event, Pickalbatros Group, has re-affirmed their contractual commitment towards the next two (2) editions.

Financial Support to Member Associations

CAF has allocated an additional USD 16.2 Million to assist Member Associations to mitigate challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each Member Associations will be entitled to USD 300,000.

Appointment of Commercial Director

Confirmation of the appointment of Ali Aissaoui as Commercial Director. Prior to joining CAF, the Moroccan served as Business Development Manager of FC Barcelona.

Update on Transform CAF 2021

There has been giant stride in the execution of Transform CAF 2021 which was launched during the CAF Executive Committee in Doha, Qatar, last February. The CAF Administration will continue with the implementation of the major points towards achieving the targets of the project.

Kickoff! Somalia reopens renovated national stadium in Mogadishu

Somalia for years now honoured international games in Djibouti because of insecurity in the capital.

Somalia’s national stadium in the capital Mogadishu officially reopened today years after it was abandoned due to insecurity. A game was also honoured today after extensive renovations since 2018 when government took control of the facility.

It was adversely affected by the country’s civil war, at a point it was occupied by Al-Shabaab insurgents and later by the African Union’s AMISOM forces deployed to combat the group.

The European Union, Norway and other development partners supported the reconstruction efforts which began after the facility was officially handed over to the government by AMISOM in 2018.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo was accompanied by top government officials for the reopening ceremony as they watched the game, the first in three decades at the venue according to some reports.

Somalia for years now honoured international games in Djibouti because of insecurity in the capital. The stadium was captured from Al Shabaab during an operation to liberate the city in September 2011. AMISOM subsequently used it as a base till the handover.

According to a company contracted to work on grassing the pitch, its constructions works started on the in late January 2020 and were completed on the 10th of April 2020. Domo Sports Grass added that reopening had been hampered by COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the latest national facility to be reopened in Mogadishu. over the weekend, the president also oversaw the reopening of the National Theater, which had also faced a similar fate due to insecurity.

Egyptian giant Zamalek to boycott league [Football Planet]

Uncertainty still lingers in the forthcoming 2021 CAF. The cancellation of FIFA dates in September further complicates the CAF’s 2020 games

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In Egypt, after issuing several threats, the Zamalek have finally taken action. The frustration of some clubs with the decision to resume the championship takes a dramatic turn. The Cairo-based club has announced that it will not be resuming the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Nigerian international Victor Osimhen who plays for Lille has this Monday been awarded the Marc-Vivien Foé Prize for the Best African player in French Ligue 1. The 21-year-old Super Eagle striker scored a total of 13 goals in French League 1. He succeeds the Ivorian Nicolas Pépé.