She might say that her career wasn’t influenced by her family, but naturally, it seemed the fruit never fell far from the tree. On the village streets, Sumaili would go around kicking balls and playing with boys in the hood, something that her mother wasn’t too much of a fun of.
“I was playing just to make myself happy. Not that I was interested in making a career out of football. My mum never liked it and she would often tell me not to play. But I would always find a way to sneak out and enjoy football,” Sumaili explains in an interview with CAFOnline.
She was often encouraged by people who saw her play, including one of the coaches at Bujumbura based giants Atletico Olympique who would often tell her to try professional football. The coach would go as far as begging Sumaili’s mum to let the little girl try out a career in football.
Turned mother from doubter to believer
Football fate was waving its hand constantly at Sumaili. They moved houses to another part of the capital and there, she would become close to one of her aunties who was also a football referee. In 2008, she managed to convince her to join a club, La Colombe.
“She (aunty) went and begged my mum and asked her to allow me go. For me, I was also not keen. I was just enjoying my football on the street. No pressure. But I thought, why not. I went there and my first training session, I didn’t even have shorts. I went there barefoot and my skirt on!” recalls Sumaili.
She was on and off at La Colombe and wasn’t very keen to take her football seriously. The Atletico coach, who had now nicknamed her Maradona tried all he could to encourage her to take football seriously.
He pestered her until it started curving slow and sure in her heart that a career was possible.
The FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa in 2010 proved a masterstroke.
“I watched the World Cup and as a small girl who loved football, it was very exciting. I started thinking about it and said now that everyone is telling me I am good, I could actually start taking football seriously,” she explains.
She ultimately became more committed at her club and when the league was starting in 2011, she was off to a flier. Though she got only a few minutes in the first few matches of the season, she went on to star.
“I used to get like three or five minutes and that made me really mad. I asked myself; In the street I get to play all I want but here, I just get a few minutes. Why should I come here and leave the street where I am enjoying?” Sumaili narrates.
But, with the encouragement of captain Daniella Niyibimenya (now the head coach of the national team) and a close friend in the team Florence Kalume (now playing basketball in the USA), Sumaili kept pushing.