Rwanda: 15 Questions With Retired Goalie Eric ‘Bakame’ Ndayishimiye

Goalkeeper Eric ‘Bakame’ Ndayishimiye announced his retirement from professional football on July 18, after 18 years during which he established himself as one of the best goalkeepers that Rwanda has ever produced.

From winning CECAFA Kagame Cup with defunct ATRACO FC and APR in 2008 and 2010 respectively to helping Rayon Sports reach their first ever CAF Confederation group stages and Rwanda to the quarterfinals of the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Kigali, Bakame entered the history books as one of the most decorated player in Rwandan football.

Weekend Sport caught up with him on his football journey, good and bad moments, and his next move in the future ahead.

What inspired you to become a football player?

My own talent inspired me. I can’t say that someone else inspired me even though I was a big fan of football from a young age.

How can you describe your career?

I can describe my career as a ‘success’ looking at what I have achieved as a footballer and as a person. I can wish any young Rwandan football player to have a good career as mine or better but I am grateful to God for the good times I had in my entire career.

What pushed you to hang up your gloves?

I felt like I was not strong anymore enough to play football at the highest level. That is where the idea came from and I decided to retire to pass the baton to young football talents.

I achieved almost everything possible at the club level and a bit with the national team even if I was not able to play in the AFCON which has always been my dream.

Greatest moment?

I have lived so many football moments. From winning the CECAFA Kagame Cup with ATRACO in Sudan and with APR in Kigali to helping Rwanda reach the 2016 CHAN quarterfinals in Kigali.

Being part of the Rayon Sports team that reached the quarterfinals of the 2017/18 CAF Confederations Cup quarterfinals and playing The AFCON U17 are among my greatest moments that I will always cherish.

Your biggest accomplishment?

Football helped grow more as a person and parent. Now I have a happy family, living in my own house, there is a lot to be happy about. I have also got a lot of good friends and important connections thanks to football.

Your nightmare attacker?

I have met so many attacking players throughout my career in different clubs and national team but Bokota Labama was the deadliest striker I have ever faced.

Biggest regret?

Mistakes are made in football, just like in other life careers.

I remember it was in the CHAN 2016 held in Kigali when we were playing DR Congo in the quarter finals. While we were level 1-1, a Congolese winger which I don’t remember his name well put in a cross coming into my penalty box and I let Faustin Usengimana clear it with his head. Unfortunately, he couldn’t clear it then Congo took advantage of our miscommunication and scored their second winning goal which saw us out of the tournament.

After that incident, I realized that I should have come out to save that cross as long as it was inside my own box. Really regret it.

What do you think about mental health in football?

Being a footballer at the top level in Rwanda is not easy. There are so many ups and downs; the critics from the media, expectations, etc. Some young players also fail to control fame and struggle to be consistent in their career. Football is no exception when it comes to mental health. Such issues happen in this career just like in other sectors.

What will you miss most in football?

All athletes across various sports disciplines like to play in front of the crowd and it is even more fun when your team is winning or you’re contributing well to the team. I think I will miss playing in front of the fully-packed stadiums and celebrating with the fans after winning games or titles.

What lesson has football taught you?

The greatest lesson football has taught me is ‘teamwork’. Through football, I learned how working with others helps to do difficult things in easy ways.

Who’s your football hero?

My football heroes are James Rekeraho and Aime Desire Ndanda. I grew up watching them and they were all great goalkeepers.

Your five-aside?

It’s tricky because I played with so many good players. But in my five-aside…. I can put myself between the posts, then late Hamad ‘Katawuti’ Ndikumana (RIP) in defense. He was good in aerials and had a great vision for the ball.

Manfred Kizito would fit in as a holding midfielder. He was so strong but he had flexibility on the ball. So I liked his style.

Also Jeannot Witakenge is one of the best playmakers that I have ever seen not only in Rwanda but also in the region. I can include him in a playmaking role and then name legendary Jimmy Gatete as the striker. We all know what he has been to Rwandan football in the past two decades.