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2017/18 Azam Rwanda Premier League season kicks-off today

Posted on Sep 30 2017

2017/18 Azam Rwanda Premier league season kicks off today with all 16 clubs scheduled to play on the first weekend.

Peace Cup holders APR FC begin their campaign against Sunrise FC at Kigali Stadium before reigning champions Rayon Sports start their title defense against AS Kigali on Sunday.

This is how teams are prepared for the new season

APR FC vs Sunrise FC
Bidding for a record-extending 17th league title, APR FC, who are also the reigning Peace Cup holders, start their campaign against Sunrise FC at Kigali Stadium.

Jimmy Mulisa’s team, who finished in third place last season, behind Rayon Sports and Police FC, have had a less convincing pre-season, missing out on the Agaciro Development Fund Cup and the Super Cup at the hands of their arch rivals Rayon Sports.

The military side will be looking to start their season on a high so as to build confidence among the players, who will need no reminder of the importance of winning the league opener—last season APR beat Sunrise twice in the league, 2-1 and 1-0 respectively.

APR have not been as busy as their main challengers in the transfer market; they signed two right-backs Denis Rukundo from KCCA, and free agent Fitina Ombolenga as well as Fabrice Twagizimana from SC Kiyovu (free), while the club have promoted five players from the academy.

Sunrise Fc finished in ninth place with 33 points under interim coach Andre Casa Mbungo, who has since joined SC Kiyovu. The Nyagatare-based outfit will be under new head coach Alphonse Gatera.

Rayon Sports Fc vs AS Kigali
AS Kigali passed a budget of Rwf250 million to use in the new season and have been the biggest spenders in the transfer market in anticipation of a break or make season as far as being genuine challengers for the league title is concerned.

Eric Nshimiyimana’s team will start their campaign against defending champions Rayon Sports on Sunday at Kigali Stadium.

The City of Kigali-sponsored side has their eyes set on winning this season’s league after finishing fourth last season. AS Kigali released nine players and brought in six new signings including Rwanda international Savio Dominique Nshuti from Rayon Sports as well as Amavubi midfielder Ally Niyonzima, who cost them a record Rwf18 million from Mukura Victory Sports.

Other new signings include; Jean-Claude Ndarusanze from Lydia Ludic Academic (LLB), central defender Omar Ngandu from APR FC, midfielder Kevin Ishimwe from relegated Pepiniere as well as strikers Emmanuel Ngama from Mukura and Frank Kalanda from Soana FC (Uganda).

Nshimiyimana admits his side will go into the game looking for a win, “We know it is going to be tough but we have been training well and we will be looking for three points.”

AS Kigali have already beaten Rayon Sports 1-0 in the Agaciro Cup, something that Rayon head coach Olivier Karekezi will be keen to avenge for especially when it matters the most as three points are at stake.

“We have not lost the fact that AS Kigali beat us just the other day, but the league is totally different, I believe we’re ready for the challenge,” Karekezi said.

Former Amavubi captained noted that, “I’m really happy with our pre-season but we have got to be prepared for what is going to be a long and tough season. We won three (pre-season) trophies and I hope we will take the good form into the league.”

Rayon Sports, under Djuma Masudi who resigned after winning the title, beat AS Kigali twice last season.

Etincelles Fc vs Police FC
Police FC head coach Innocent Seninga returns to his former club, Etincelles, for the league opener on Saturday, having beaten them 2- 0 in the league first round last season before playing goalless in second round.

Police finished second last season with 61 points but their preparations for the upcoming campaign have not been a smooth sailing.

As title holders, they struggled during the Agaciro Development Fund tournament losing to APR Fc, AS Kigali and Rayon Sports, but Seninga believes that his side is capable of competing for the title.

He said, “Pre-season has ended, and yes, we’ve not had ideal preparations but we can only focus on getting three points on the first day of the league season—in terms of readiness, you can say, we’re almost there but there are a few areas we need to improve.”

Emmanuel Ruremesha’s Etincelles finished in seventh place last season with 40 points.

Bugesera FC vs Amagaju FC
Under head coach Pablo Uwimana, Amagaju FC, who finished in tenth place last season with 33 points, on Sunday, will visit Bugesera FC, who will play their home matches at Kicukiro Stadium as their Nyamata ground is currently under renovation.

Ahead of the new season, the Nyamagabe-based club have signed several new players, most of them on free transfer, among them midfielder Tresor Ndikumana from Burundi, former Etincelles and AS Kigali goalie Freddy Ilunga Mukadi, former Isonga forward Jean Luc Bisangwa (free).

Others are; center back Gullain Inyange from Lla Jeunesse, Emmanuel Nzabahimana (recalled from loan at Rwamagana City FC), full back Aphrodise Biraboneye (free), Evode Niyobuhungiro (free), goalkeeper Pacifique Twagirumukiza (free) and midfielder Pascal Rutagengwa (free).

Their opponents, Bugesera FC, under new head coach Ali Bizimungu, have set themselves an ambitious target to finish in the top four.

Last season, Bugesera finished fifth in the 16-team league table standing with 50 points from 13 wins, 11 draws and six defeats.

Their new signings include; center-back Omar Musa from Atletico of Burundi, midfielders Steven Nzigamasabo and Emery Nimubona from Vital’O (Burundi), forwards Fabrice Ninahazwe from APR FC and Bertin Dusenge from Marines as well as right-back Yannick Bukebuke from Sunrise FC.

The others are; Allain Pekeyake Tuyisenge from AS Kigali, Patrick Ntijyinama from Gicumbi FC, Robert Ndatima from Police FC, Jean Dieu Nsabimana from Pepiniere FC and Rwanda international striker Bernabe Mubumbyi from AS Kigali.

Last season, Bugesera did a league double over Amagaju, winning 2-1 in the first round and 1-0 in second round.

SC Kiyovu vs Musanze
SC Kiyovu finished second bottom in the 16-team league table last season, which led to relegation to the second division for the first time in the club’s 53-year history but they got a second chance at the first division after promoted Isonga FC opted against taking their place in the topflight.

The Mumena-based ‘Green Baggies’ will have to make major improvement on and off the field if they’re to avoid similar strugglers but under new head coach Andre Cassa Mbungo, you expect them to do a lot better and escape the relegation dog-fight, like it was for most of last season.

Mbungo has vowed to bring back a winning mentality to Kiyovu, “It is a tough journey ahead of us, but it’s my responsibility to make sure that we play well and be able to win more games.”

SC Kiyovu have strengthened their squad with several new signings including Ugandan striker Benson Rahim Ociti from Kenyan side Chemelil Sugar FC, midfielder Janvier Bonane and defender Aime Placide Uwineza from second division outfit Isonga FC.

Others are; midfielder Jean Pierre Maombi from Musanze FC, experienced midfielder Fabrice Mugheni from Rayon Sports, Espoir FC’s center-back Ally Mbogo as well as Rwandan international Innocent ‘Di Maria’ Habyarimana and right-back Jean Paul Uwihoreye from Police FC.

Sosthene Habimana’s Musanze FC finished in sixth place last season with 45 points, and will be hoping to get their campaign on a high against a side whose biggest problem last season was scoring goals.

Meanwhile, Musanze, like most of the league teams, have made several signings including; midfielder Japhet Imurora from Police FC, forwards Suleiman Mudeyi from Gicumbi FC and Franck Barirengako from Muzinga FC of Burundi as well as former Mukura goalkeeper Andre Mazimpaka and defenders Philbert Shyaka and Daniel Mwiseneza.

Kirehe FC vs Mukura VS
Kirehe FC, under new head coach Aboul Karim ‘Coka’ Nduhirabandi, will host Mukura at Nyakarambi ground on Saturday.

Although they haven’t signed many players due to tight budget, Nduhirabandi believes that the existing squad is strong enough to help the club achieve their goal for the season, top of them, to avoid relegation.

Kirehe are the only Azam Rwanda Premier League side that did not play any pre-season warm up matches ahead of the new campaign, while Mukura played five friendlies, the last one against SC Kiyovu, ended 1-1.

Mukura’s new Burundian head coach Francis Christian Haringingo will be looking to secure three points in his first competitive match in charge.

The Huye-based club finished in a disappointing 12th position last season, and will be hoping to avenge for last season’s double loss against Kirehe, who defeated them 1-0 under Hamis ‘Kishi’ Sogonya, in Huye before another 3-1 defeat in Nyakarambi.

Mukura have strengthened their squad ahead of the season start by signing goalkeeper David Nshimirimana from Musanze FC, former Muzinga FC captain Saidi Iragire , Ugandan forward Rachid Mutebi as well as Omar Rwabugiri formerly of Musanze FC and Alexis Nkomeje from AS Kigali.

Gicumbi Fc vs Espoir Fc

Espoir, who finished eighth last season with 39 points, will kick off the new season away to Gicumbi FC, who finished 14th, one point above the relegation zone.

Under Jimmy Ndizeye, Espoir FC have signed striker John Semazzi from Ugandan league side Vipers, Maurice Uzayisenga from Gicumbi FC, Emmanuel Uwimana from AS Kigali, Regis Twagizimana and Abdul Mudeyi (both from Amagaju FC) and Manisura Senzira from Marine FC.

After surviving relegation on the last day of the season, Gicumbi FC have signed nine new players ahead of the new campaign.

ARPL 2017/18, Match Day 1

APR FC vs Sunrise FC (Stade de Kigali, 3:30pm)
Etincelles vs Police FC (Stade Umuganda, 3:30pm)
Gicumbi FC vs Espoir Fc (Stade de Gicumbi, 3:30pm)
Kirehe FC vs Mukura VS (KIrehe grounds, 3:30pm)

Bugesera Fc vs Amagaju Fc (Stade Kicukiro, 3:30pm)
Miroplast Fc vs Marines Fc (Stade Mironko, 3:30pm)
SC Kiyovu vs Musanze Fc (Stade Mumena, 3:30pm)
Rayon Sports Vs AS Kigali (Stade de Kigali, 3:30pm)
Source: Newtimes.co.rw

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