1995, Burundi is playing its only continental final in the midst of a political crisis
A priori, things were rather bad for the Burundian selection, since she found herself in Group B of the CAN U20 played in Nigeria, along with Cameroun, Senegal and Mauritius.
No one imagined that this small East African country could qualify for the next round. And yet, the juniors coached by Baudouin Ribakare did it. Against all odds, they even reached the final.
Burundi started this 9th edition of the CAN U20 with timidity. For his baptism of fire, he bowed to the Lion Cubs of Cameroun (0-1). This defeat to Cameroun did not demoralise Ribakare’s players.
On the contrary, by losing on the smallest of the brands, they saw that they could do better in other encounters.
Against Mauritius, the Junior Swallows won (2-1). The third match against Senegal was crucial for the rest of the competition. A draw was enough for Burundi to reach the semi-finals.
Determined to reach this stage of the competition, the young Burundians get there by winning a one-goal draw everywhere against the Lionceaux de la Téranga, a certain Salif Diao and Tony Sylva, future executives of the talented 2002 generation of Lions who will be African vice-champion and quarter-finalist of the World Cup.
Mali crushed in the semi-finals
After these group games, Burundi confidently faces Mali in the semi-finals. Mali, which had finished first in its group ahead of Nigeria, the host country, was a real test for Burundi.
The tactician Baudouin Ribakare, a coach feared for his rigour, does not change his team. His players follow his instructions to the letter and impose themselves by 3-0. These goals were scored by Rukundo Banza, Masoudi Juma and Wilondja.
The little thumb therefore surprises his world and arrives in the final of this 9th edition. The young Burundians are preparing to face, on February 8, 1995, Cameroun who had beaten them (1-0) in the group stage.
Favourite for this final, however, it is Burundi that starts this match very well. Fréddy Ndayishimiye and Masoudi Juma touch the Cameroun woods in turn.
“The Burundians found themselves with their eyes closed”
Fear settled in the Cameroon camp, but it was very early to hope for victory.
The players of Jean Manga Onguené, the vast majority of whom came from the Cameroun Brewery Football School (Gérémi Njitap, Joseph Marie Tchango, Pierre Womé, Basile Essa Mvomo and Captain Augustine Simo) woke up and put the Burundians back in their place.
Cameroun finally won this final with a heavy score of 4-0. Thanks to this second place, Burundi gets its ticket to the final phase of the World Cup.
Théodore Ntunga, a sports journalist, who had accompanied the team to Nigeria, tells SNA that it will be very difficult to see such a talented generation again in Burundi.
“They were young, talented and supportive. They came from three clubs. Prince Louis with the largest number of players, Vital’o and Maniema Fantasique.Remembers this old wolf from the Burundian sports press.
They spent six months together. On the ground, they found themselves with their eyes closed. It was really a golden generation. I was not surprised when they reached the final, “
Alphonse Rugambarara, Minister of Youth and Sports at the time, says that the result of these young people was not the result of chance.
“We chose a very experienced coach in the person of Baudouin Ribakare to lead this team. We gave him everything necessary for him to do his job properly. We put these boys together. They slept and ate together for a period of six months at the Kiriri campus (5km from the city of Bujumbura) in a quiet place so that nothing disturbs them, “Remeolds the leader.
“These young people represented the entire Burundian nation”
“We were in a period of political crisis but all politicians were unanimous that sport, especially football, could reconcile Burundians.
“It was not difficult then to unlock the means to support these young people because the policy of the transitional government was to supervise young people through sport.
“These young people from the national team represented the model for the others. When they played, they represented the entire Burundian nation and not this or that ethnic group, “Remembers this former minister.
Burundi crushed by Raul’s Spain at the World Cup
A few months after this continental feat, Burundi will compete in its first World Cup. It is in Group B, composed of Spain, Japan and Chile. Baudouin Ribakare keeps almost the same players used during the CAN.
Burundi’s new adventure begins on April 13, 1995 in Doha at Al-Ahly Stadium. The Junior Swallows do not resist against Raul’s teammates. They are beaten 5-1. The only Burundian goal was scored by Freddy Ndayishimiye.
In the second game, Burundi drew against Chile (1-1). It is Blaise Butunungu who scores the equalising goal. On April 16, 2015, Burundi’s adventure ended with a 0-2 defeat to Japan.
Since then, no Burundian team in any category has ever qualified for a World Cup.