Interview with Desiré Ndagijimana of Burundi
Umar Mathir (UM): Good day sir, kindly introduce yourself to the readers of This Is Football Africa.
Desiré Ndagijimana (DN) : I am Desiré Ndagijimana of Bujumbura, a city in Burundi. I’m a physical education teacher at a secondary school, football is my main passion.
UM: You live in a country that is called “The heart of Africa,” why is Burundi given this title?
DN: The reason we say this, is due to both it’s shape, as well as it’s location in Africa, which can both be likened to the way the heart of a human is positioned, off centre as well.
UM: Burundi is not called “The heart of Africa” for those two reasons only, this ‘heart’ also beats, it beats to the rythym of the Royal Drummers of Burundi and it’s people in general. What can you tell us about the way Burundian people beat drums?
DN: In actual fact, the beating of drums were meant to honour kings of Burundi during the monarchy period, up to a point whereby it’s forbidden to beat drums if it’s not an official (public) holiday
UM: Explain to us the difference between Inkiranya, Amashako and Rukinzo drums?
DN: There is a difference in the way the drums are positioned, while they beat them, Inkiranya and Amashako are behind Rukinzo, which is positioned right at the front.
(In terms of position, as well as when they are beaten, usually after the main established beats of the Rukinzo drum).
UM: Apparently, the Burundian government doesn’t allow women to beat drums, is this true, if so, what are the reasons?
DM: The reason is simple, the Burundian drum is considered to be almost like an intimate part of a human body, that is why it’s forbidden for women to beat them, except for them to dance in the accompaniment of the men.
UM: Do you belong to any tribe, are you perhaps Wahutu, Watutsi, or one of the Batwa ( Hutu, Tutsi or Twa) tribesmen?
DN: It’s forbidden to talk about this openly, it’s something that can be punishable.
UM: My reason for asking is, I once heard that during the times of the genocide and unrest in neighbouring Rwanda, it was alleged that members of the Hutu tribe would take the already decapitated heads of Tutsi people, and kick them around as if they were playing football. We are also told that apart from Rwanda, there also was a war between these tribes in Burundi, is this a fact?
DN: It happened in Burundi first. That war spread over into Rwanda in 1994, from the eruption of a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes initially in Burundi during 1993, after the assassination of then President Melchior Ndadaye.
I would like to make it very clear to anybody who is reading this interview, that we are very much at peace now and all is well.
UM: Besides Ingoma (Traditional dance and drumming) along with your involvement in guiding the youth in their development within various sport, what else are you involved in?
DN: It’s still within sport, another thing I teach and I’m also passionate about, is swimming.
UM: Which town or city do you reside in currently?
UM: Tell us a bit about Bujumbura, how different is it to Gitega?
DN: Bujumbura is the economic capital and first city of Burundi, while Gitega is the country’s second city as well as it’s political capital. Bujumbura is very hot in the plaine, and is located on a shore of Lake Tanganyika, while Gitega is in the centre of Burundi, has a colder climate as it’s in the highlands by mountains.
UM: In Gitega there is a club soccer team known as Le Messager Gitega or more commonly known as Flambeau du centre, tell us what you think about this team as well as their performances in the CAF Champions League?
DN: Flambeau du centre is a very strong team that usually ends a season consistently in the top 5, however, this season they are faltering a bit when compared to previous seasons.
UM: Are they one of the biggest teams in Burundi?
DN: Yes they are, among Bumamuru, Messager Ngozi, Aigle Noir and Vital ‘O’ FC.
UM: Globally, it happens more often than not, that teams which win the most trophies in a country, in many cases, also have the most fans, is it the same in Burundi? Which is the most successful team in Burundi, firstly in terms of support, and then in terms of trophies won?
DN: In terms of support, new teams have emerged and are very well supported, the likes of Aigle Noir who are known as “The Fighters,” Messager Ngozi, Bumamuru FC, and Flambeau du centre, they’ve overtaken Vital ‘O’FC, who are still the most successful Burundian club team in terms of trophies won. They (Vital ‘O’FC) are in existence for a long time now.
UM: The population of Burundi is just under 13 Million people, yet I’m told that attendances at the Burundi Ligue A, also known as the Primus Ligue, are always decent, and games are almost sold out, to completely sold out crowds at every local league game there, can you confirm this?
DN: No, I can’t confirm this at all, it depends on a match by match basis and on who’s playing.
UM: Is it safe for supporters to attend these matches, and what about the games involving the bigger club teams?
DN: As I said, it depends on the fixture, the Derby between Musongati and Flambeau in the centre of of Gitega, as well as the Vital ‘O’FC versus Inter Star in Bujumbura are really starting to heat up….
UM: ….What I meant to ask is about the security at stadiums, are they up to standard, anything in that regard or overall that you would like to see improve?
DN: The security at stadiums have really improved here in Burundi, the police are genuinely working and doing their jobs well, in general.
UM: How much do you spend on an average match day , if we include tickets, transport, food as well as any other costs you may incur, for each match day experience?
DN: It depends on where the matches are taking place, most happen too far away from the capital city I live in, but to give you an average amount, I spend nothing less than 50 000 BIF (Burundian Franc, an amount fluctuating between R415 – R460) per live match I attend.
UM: Are match tickets easily obtainable, where do they sell them, are tickets sold at stadiums, where else can someone buy a Primus Ligue game ticket?
DN: Tickets for all categories of matches are easy to get, they are also obtainable at the various stadia, and it also depends on which part of a stadium we’d like to be cheering from.
UM: What about replica jerseys, are replica jerseys of club teams made available to supporters, if yes, give us a few examples and how they’re priced from the cheapest, to the most expensive?
DN: Replica jerseys of our local club teams are not easy to get, especially when it comes to the majority of the fans, many are unable to obtain them. Some supporters can buy some jerseys, but not alot (Purchases are limited to a certain amount per customer) Their prices are unknown to me as a supporter, it’s a team secret.
UM: A team secret, what do you mean by that Desiré? How can replica jersey prices be kept a secret from supporters of a team, don’t they want to promote their jerseys and teams?
DN: Many Burundian teams are in the hands of (owned by) rich businessmen , knowing the prices is not easy for us…
UM: ….I meant retail cost, I mean why would they not advertise the retail price to potential customers, what kind of business people are these?
DN: Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for that question, if I knew the answer to that, I’d most definitely tell you, but for myself and many other people, we just simply don’t know the reasons as to why some of these things are the way they are.
UM: Is it easy for you to get to stadiums, are all of them easy to get to, or perhaps are some, or all difficult to access?
DN: When you don’t have your own vehicle, you have to use public transport. I usually use a public bus.
UM: Do you buy your food before or after matches? What about the availability of food at the various stadia? If available, are prices of beverages and other food items the same as what you’d normally pay in stores around the country?
DN: Listen my friend, our country (Burundi) is not developed like yours (South Africa). There is no food at the stadiums, we wait for the end of the match and then we go to the places where we can buy food and drinks (Laughing profusely).
UM: Are there supporter branches or support groups of the various club teams, if yes, are they official or at the very least, recognised by the respective club teams?
DN: There are fans who form support groups that are not official, however, they are being recognised or let me say acknowledged, by the clubs themselves.
UM: There is a club team nicknamed “Gikundiro” (Musongati FC) in Burundi, are you aware that there is also another very famous football club in Rwanda that is also officially called “Gikundiro?”
DN: You’re talking about Rayon Sports most definitely, however, for me personally, my favourite team in neighbouring Rwanda is APR FC.
UM: Seeing that they (Rayon Sports and Musongati FC) have the same nickname, is there any relationship between the “Gikundiro” of each country?
DN: No, I believe there is no relationship, or at least none that we know about.
UM: (Sarcastically) Is it true that V.A.R needs to be implemented for all future matches involving Vital ‘O’FC and Aigle Noir ? What are your honest opinions of this Video Assistant Referee technology?
DN: I feel, in all possible cases, not just between Aigle Noir and Vital ‘O’FC, that it’s necessary to have V.A.R. Referees are human and prone to making errors.
UM: What goes through your mind when you hear that a brand new, super rich, football tournament called the CAF Super League, meant to be launched in 2023, will probably only feature the already super rich club soccer teams of Africa?
DN: Frankly, CAF have come up with a very bad choice of ideas, as this could potentially stagnate the growth of some potential and already up and coming teams.
UM: What do you know about the clubs involved in the upcoming derby in neighbouring Rwanda?
DN: Between Rayon Sports and APR FC? There is a very ‘hot climate’ in that clash.
UM: Before we let you go Desiré, is there anything on your heart and mind, with regards to the game of football in Burundi, or in general, that you’d like to tell us?
DN: Before we conclude, I personally would like to firstly thank ThisIsFootball.Africa for this amazing opportunity to be interviewed, and I humbly request and invite you all at TIFA, to continue giving a space to Burundian football on your media platforms, so that this can help us to gain recognition.
UM: Thank you for your time Desiré, all the best for now and in the future.
DN: Greetings to everyone involved at TIFA, it’s a pleasure. Feel free to contact me anytime.