Burundi women’s football more flourishing despite challenges

On the occasion of the Women Sport International, this 24 January, the Burundi Federation says it is glad about steps made. However, female football players face various challenges.

Emérence Girukwishaka, left, in red jersey, displaying her talent on the ground

Emérence Girukwishaka, left, in red jersey, displaying her talent on the ground

“It is not easy to play football in Burundi as a mother”, says Emérence Girukwishaka, 25, and mother of one kid. She plays in Faufila football team in the capital Bujumbura. Her husband plays for “Inter-FC”-another football team. “I do not have any problem with him, he likes what I do”, she says.

Girukwishaka says the only problem she may face is the lack of a babysitter. “I can’t have enough time for the training session when my baby is alone”, she says.

She started to play football when she was 16. “My father was a good coach and is the one who initiated women’s football in Burundi. I didn’t get any problem to convince my family”, she says. Girukwishaka often went to play in East African countries-EAC and was the best scorer in 2015.

N.N. another player in Faufila team says she happens to be marginalized in the society. “We sometimes face social stigma. Some prejudices are still observed and my relatives sometimes criticize me saying I behave like a male player”, she says.

Those female players say they struggle daily to get the society understand them. “Football is my passion, I do not take those prejudices for granted”, she says.

The lack of support discourages players

The lack of follow-up is one of the challenges they often face.

“We need sufficient support from Burundi Football Federation (FFB) and other partners”, says Girukwishaka.
She says the championships and matches are often suspended due to the lack of fund. “This impacts us negatively because we are often involved in other activities different from football. We need to get as much support as male players”, she says.

Daniella Niyibimenya in charge of women’s football development in Burundi Football Federation (FFB) says women’s football is now played throughout the country despite some challenges. There are football clubs in Ngozi, Makamba, Bubanza, Cibitoke and Rumonge provinces. “Other clubs will be soon established in Bururi, Muramvya, Gitega and Ruyigi provinces”, she says.

Niyibimenya says that Burundian female football players have already participated in the 2016 EAC Interschool Championship organized by the Council for East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA). “Burundian players were very much appreciated”, she says.

This FFB agent says that it is true that the interruption of matches and championships discourages players and indicates that the federation is looking for better solutions. “FFB is looking for sufficient fund so that they can play without any interruption”, she says.

Burundi women’s football started in 1988. To date, there are 28 women’s football clubs grouped into three different categories: 10 for division A (over 20 years of age), 12 for the division B (under 20 years of age) and 6 clubs for females under 17 years of age.