Wafcon 2022: Burundi star Habionimana never knew women's teams existed

Esperance Habionimana, BurundiBBC Sport

Burundi national team midfielder Esperance Habionimana has revealed she did not know women's teams existed.

The teenager played a vital role to help the Eastern Africa team qualify for the 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) in Morocco. The Hirondelles are in Group C and have no points from the two games they have played so far.

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They lost 4-2 and 3-1 to Botswana and South Africa respectively but have a chance of making it to the quarters.

Habionimana explains how she developed interest in the game, "I played football but never knew there were women's teams," the 15-year-told BBC Sport.

"I was playing in a men's team with my brothers because in my mind I never thought there were any women's teams. I used to go out and play with my brothers - I always told them to wake me up if I was asleep when they were heading out and we would go together."

The youngster has further revealed she never expected to play at the current elite women's stage in the continent.

"I never thought I would ever get here. I have worked hard, and I was very happy to be selected," Habionimana continued.

"One day a lady who had a women's team saw me playing with the men and asked me to join the women's team...

"My mother would say to me - 'I have never seen women playing football, why are you forcing yourself to play?' She would say she didn't want me to play football because I would become muscular, but my father would tell her 'let the child play'.

"The president of the women's team came and spoke to my mum and told her that there are women playing football and it is not a bad thing. There are women who have had children and continue with their football career, so my mother gave in and let me play."

Habionimana has further set her target, "I hope that I can play my football beyond Burundi because you cannot be successful by staying in one place."