As Enyimba prepare to confront Rwanda’s Rayon Sports in Kigali on Sunday in Kigali, Abdul Rwatubyaye, a defender for the club and national team has said that there is nothing to fear about the two-time former African champions.

He told the Rwandan New Times that playing against strong sides is not new to his team.

“Our journey to quarter-finals has not been without a fight, we have been tested against some of Africa’s best already – and we absolutely deserve to be where we are right now. Many did not expect to see or hear of a Rwandan side in the round of last eight.”

The 22-year-old defender has insisted that holding South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns in Kigali, and USM Alger in Algeria as well as beating Gor Mahia in Kenya, all this year, are some of the results that prove why Rayon Sports cannot be underrated.

Commenting on his side’s chances to go all the way to lifting the title come December 2, Rwatubyaye said, “No doubt bookies and punters will rate them (Enyimba) as favourites, but we have been underdogs before and we can be quite dangerous at that.

There’s only eight [teams] left in the tournament, so we believe we can go on and win it. Hopefully it turns out that way,” the hard-tackling defender said.

“Playing at such a stage is every player’s dream, unfortunately most don’t get to live that day. I want to shine and help Rayon Sports reach the semi finals, I have never felt this enthusiastic and ready to do anything possible for a victory,” a visibly optimistic Rwatubyaye noted.

“I don’t know much about Enyimba, besides the fact that I grew up admiring them.”

Rwatubyaye also conceded that, “Quarter-finals of the Confederation Cup is by far the highest level of football that most of us have played, but I believe it’s only the first of many large platforms to come for me and most of the players on the team.”

While Rayon Sports cruised to the quarter-finals of the continent’s second biggest club competition as first runners-up from Group D with nine points, their opponents, Enyimba, progressed as Group A leaders with 12 points.

After four match rounds, with two to go, Kenyan giants Gor Mahia (eight points) needed one point to advance to quarter-finals while it was a must for Rayon Sports to garner a maximum six points to stand a chance – and they did it in style.

On match-day five, Rayon Sports stunned Gor Mahia 2-1 in Nairobi on August 19 despite arriving in the Kenyan capital less than 20 hours to kick-off. Burundian forward Bonfils Caleb Bimenyimana and left-back Eric Rutanga were the scorers for Rayon.

Prior to the final match round on August 29, Gor Mahia and USM Alger jointly topped Group D with 8 points apiece, two ahead of Rayon Sports. Young Africans had 4 points at the bottom.

The former CAF Champions League finals, USM Alger, had to host Gor Mahia while Rayon were hosting Young Africans. The Algerian giants and Rayon won their respective encounters, 2-1 and 1-0 respectively, to secure slots to the quarter-finals.

Again, Bimenyimana was the hero of the night.

Players may leave, but the team remains!

The club’s assistant captain has also praised the unshaken team sprit despite departures of some key players and scandals in the coaching and management of the team.

“It has been a tough journey. Some key players and technical staff left but we kept surging forward because the team is bigger than individuals. The problems taught us to stick together,” he said.

Besides the unceremonious departures of former coaches Olivier Karekezi and Belgian Ivan Minneart, the club also lost some of their star players in the course of the season such as; Eric ‘Bakame’ Ndayishimiye, Pierrot Kwizera, Ismailla Diarra, and Faustin Usengimana.

Former skipper Ndayishimiye was fired for allegedly conspiring against the team while the trio of Kwizera, Diarra and Usengimana landed professional contracts abroad.

Other quarter-finals

Apart from the much-awaited Rayon Sports Vs Enyimba tie, USM Alger take on Egyptian side Al-Masry, Raja Casablanca of Morocco will be up against CARA Brazzaville of the Republic of Congo, while DR Congo’s AS Vita Club and Morocco’s RSB Berkane square-off in the other quarter-final.

Raja Casablanca, also known as Raja Club Athletic, advanced to the quarter-finals as Group A leaders with 11 points, ahead of first runners-up AS Vita Club (10 points). RSB Berkane and Al-Masry progressed from Group B as leaders and first runners-up with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Only Rwanda’s Rayon Sports and Congo’s CARA Brazzaville are playing quarter-finals in any CAF competition for the first time.

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