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Rwanda’s rising star, Iradukunda Pascal, overcomes adversity to soar with Rayon Sports

Rayon Sports’ midfielder, Iradukunda Pascal, who has often captivated the hearts of many fans and even enemies in Rwanda, insists that the challenges he encountered will be his driving force in the future.

Shortly before the start of the 2022/23 Championship, this player, then 16 years old, first appeared as a substitute in the main team of Murera playing against Musanze FC.

Many fans at the Kigali Pelé Stadium quickly fell in love with him due to his immediate display of talent. They showered him with a small amount of money and gave him the formidable nickname ‘Lionel Messi’.

He aims to score more goals next year

This young man, born on April 26, 2005, says that in his upbringing, he didn’t live with his parents as expected, instead he lived with his grandmother.

He said, “I lived with my grandmother from my mom’s side because she is the one I grew up seeing. I didn’t have the good fortune to live with my biological parents. There were issues.”

These life experiences made it difficult for him to excel at the Kacyiru School Grounds, a school in Gasabo District, at the school he won the inter-school championships ‘Inter-Scolaire’.

Even though he was training, school life wasn’t easy because finding school fees was a problem for his guardian, but he was fortunate to find a sponsor willing to support him thanks to football.

He said, “I finished primary school with great difficulty because my grandmother couldn’t find the money I used in school I did not know if I could continue for high school. There was a man who liked how I played and even had a team, he talked to my guardian and decided to help me.”

“This man sponsored me in the first and second years, but when I got to the third year, I was sponsored by another who had a football academy until the fourth year. Now, I am handling everything with the money Rayon Sports is paying me.”

Iradukunda has played along with experienced footballers

Playing for Gikundiro has been a dream since he was a child and has not waned. As he reveals, he achieved his dreams because he considered them impossible.

He said, “I loved Murera [Football team] very much because I used to go to the stadiums to support it, and I used to say that I would achieve these things however they came.”

Haringingo Francis Christian, the coach who recently signed with Rayon Sports, saw Iradukunda’s talent and loved it, he said he is a good player and in the next five years, he asked the management to sign him.

Rayon Sports fans were extremely excited, they adopted Iradukunda not on the basis of Messi, but because of the unity the fans had with their main sponsor, SKOL, they nicknamed him after one of its beverages ‘Petit Skol’.

He learned from difficulty and built resilience

Even though he did not choose to live such a hard life at 17, he feels that the problems he faced made him understand more and be even more resilient.

He said, “Even though all these problems arose, I came to understand that it wasn’t their fault, they too were troubled, I keep them in mind as I focus more on working hard to achieve many things.”

This young man has ambitions beyond Rayon Sports. After winning cups for the team, he wants to be an international player reaching the pinnacle.

Iradukunda, among the players who won the 2023 Amahoro Cup with Murera, said it was a good start for his football career. He said, “It’s hard to believe because I thought I touch the cup when I was 21 years old.”

His skills on the field earned him the title of ‘Petit Skol’

His first year in Rayon Sports has been very good as he managed to play 15 games in the team which includes senior players and is in the running for both cups.

The former coach of Rayon Sports from Portugal, Jorge Paixão, is the one who discovered him when he visited the football academy where he played called Ingabire Foundation.

He immediately saw his talent and appreciated him, asked him to visit where Rayon Sports conducts its training and use the trials, he arrived and performed well, was loved by big players including Kwizera Pierrot and they asked management that the young man should not be left out. Gikundiro quickly signed him for five years.

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