Sofapaka first-choice goalkeeper Justin Ndikumana has laid Burundi’s hopes of sailing to the second round of the Africa Cup of Nations on their unrivalled teamwork.
Burundi will be making their maiden appearance in the tournament and despite heading to Egypt as debutantes and underdogs, the Sofapaka man is confident that they will grace the second round of the continental event.
Burundi defied odds to hold a Pierre Aubameyang-led Gabon to a goalless draw in the final qualification round to finish second in Group ‘C’.
Burundi are in Pool ‘B’ alongside former champions Nigeria, Guinea and fellow newbies Madagascar. The Sofapaka shot-stopper said: “It will be our first time in the tournament and we are heading there as competitors. I strongly believe through teamwork we will advance past the group stages just as we did in the qualifiers. In our team, we can not point out at certain player who we can singlehandedly rely on.”
“We value team spirit and I hope we will be able to achieve our target as each and every player is committed to showcasing his talent. We have Abdul Razak in our team who is a skilled striker but we are not having our hopes on him. It is through teamwork that we have good build ups for goals.”
The Congolese born player downplayed the team missing the services of veteran midfielder Papy Faty who passed on last month. Faty, who was plying his trade with Swaziland-based eSwatini Club Malanti collapsed on the pitch due to a suspected heart attack but Ndikumana says that they will miss his leadership skills and experience rather than contribution on the pitch. Faty played the Gabon match as a substitute.
“It’s not a big blow for us as he was more of an impact player and we have several players who can replace him. He played in two qualifiers as a substitute and we will miss his leadership on the pitch. He was a senior and a very respected player in the team.”
Ndikumana further banks his hopes of keeping clean sheets in Egypt on his Sofapaka teammate and centre half Mousa Omar who he describes as rock solid and understands his style of play.
“Having Omar as my shield gives me confidence for he knows how I play and the kind of defence I need. He takes my instructions well and helps me in passing the message to the other players. He is a dedicated defender and I hope he will carry his club form to Egypt,” said Ndikumana.