By Cynthia Lum
You say you’ve never heard of Burundi? Well neither had I until this week when I heard about Hassan Ndayishimiye, a 16 year old playing in the juniors to be the first tennis player to represent the East African country of Burundi in the Wimbledon Championships.
My curiosity was immediately sparked and I started researching this country that I knew nothing about. One of the world poorest countries, approximately 80% of the Burundi population lives in poverty. According to the World Food Program, 56% of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Life expectancy at birth is estimated at 48.5 years.
Officially known as the Republic of Burundi, located in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa, the country is landlocked but it’s southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.
So how did this young man who was raised in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, and grew up in a shantytown, make it to the Wimbledon Championships?
His tennis pro father encouraged is son even though Hassan was often reluctant, saying that his father actually forced him to play, but then when he started winning he liked tennis, because like any kid in the world he liked winning.
The young player progressed and won a few tournaments. Ndayishimiye has been training at the ITF Training Center in Pretoria, South Africa since 2009. The ITF and the Grand Slam Development Fund offers young players from developing nations an opportunity to advance their training.
The International Tennis Federation requested a wild card from the All England Club into the qualifying and he won his two matches to reach the main draw.
Hassan won his first round match yesterday but lost a hard-fought 3 set second round match to Frederico Ferre Silva of Portugal today. However, the young Burundian looks like a player. He’s quick around the court, has a big forehand, and gives his all on every point. His father has also apparently taught him good manners. I noticed on a call that he didn’t agree with, he didn’t make a fuss, just shook it off and continued to play his best. You can’t help but cheer for this teen and hope he makes it in tennis.
Ndayishimiye is obviously having the time of his life just being at Wimbledon, and rubbing shoulders with some of the top players in the world. He was quoted on the ITF website as saying, “I just have to thank the ITF and the Development Fund for giving me this chance and believing in me. I just want to take this opportunity to play as hard as I can. My goal is to just take each match at a time.”
I’ll be watching for him at the US Open and will be sending out more reports on his progress. and I want to say thank you Hassan for this feel good story, and for putting a smile on my face today.