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February 5, 2006
Sisters putting tennis on the map

Butoyi Aziza the best Burundian athlete of 2005 (in the middle) with her parents after her success in Johannesburg in 2004

Undoubtedly, the greatest sporting highlight of 2005 in Burundi was the recognition of Butoyi Aziza, as Best Athlete of the Year.

And what is more, in a sport characterized as bourgeois and attracting no public at all: court tennis!

The gentlemen’s sport was introduced to Burundi in the colonial era, and the first club, “Entente sportive”, was established in 1948. Aziza’s title is well-earned.

At the age of 15, she’s a hard hitter and won the International Under 18 Tournament in Nairobi. The story of the “Aziza-Sakina” Sisters, Aziza being the winner of the final, curiously resembles that of the Williams sisters.

Coming from a disadvantaged background, they both followed in their father’s footsteps. Butoyi Bilali, the former ball boy who became a tennis player and coach, uses his knowledge to initiate his daughters in the game.

With unlimited access to venues Bilali initiated his daughters into a disciplined training programme. Thanks to the financial grant of the Olympic Solidarity, Butoyi Aziza and her sister, Nshimirimana Sakina are able to train at the Training Centre of Pretoria.

At the age of 14, Aziza’s younger sister, Nshimirimana Sakina is also making her way up the ladder. Ranked second at national level, she made the quarterfinals of the African Junior Championships of Mauritius in March 2005.

At the award ceremony of the Best Athletes of the Year, both Aziza and Sakina received trophies presented by Nawal El Moutawakel, IOC member and 1984 Olympic 400-meter hurdle champion.

Earlier, these trophies had been awarded to the Women and Sport Commission in order to honour the best athletes of the year 2005.

Aziza and Sakina affirm that they have been motivated by their father and that they would like to repeat the feats of Venus and Serena Williams. We shall see what the future holds for them.

Tharcisse Harerimana


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