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One Year Later: Remembering Burundi’s Papy Faty

One year ago today Burundi international Papy Faty collapsed and died during a football match in eSwatini.

One year ago today, Burundian international Papy Faty collapsed and died during a football match in eSwatini.

The midfielder collapsed during a league match between Malanti Chiefs and Green Mamba at the Killarney Stadium in Piggs Peak outside Mbabane.

After attempts to resuscitate him on the pitch, he was stretchered off, where he received mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and oxygen.

Medics spent 30 minutes attempting to restart his heart, and although he was still alive upon arrival at a local hospital, he died shortly afterwards.

That was on 25 April 2019 but the memories are still painfully fresh for many Burundians.

An autopsy found that Faty been suffering from a heart condition which was traced back to 2015 while playing for South Africa Premier Soccer League side Bidvest Wits. The youngster had passed out twice on the field and doctors had advised him to stop playing football due to sudden heart failure.

However, Faty defied doctors’ orders and went on to sign a contract with Chiefs in January 2019.

Papy’s childhood friend Patrick Bizimana, suspected witchcraft against him after scans did not show any heart condition when he went for a second opinion.

In the twelve months since Papy’s death, his passing has occasionally augmented but largely overshadowed his legacy. It’s become easy to forget just how good he was, and how much he contributed to one of the finest sides in African football.

He had everything fans wanted in a midfielder- strong in the tackle, athletic and pacey and with a goal-scoring prowess. He went about his business with class and dignity.

Primarily, he caught the eye with his destructive abilities, as he tackled crisply, chased doggedly, protected those behind him and broke up opposition attacks with relish. However, as his career progressed, he also began to offer more offensively, and a thunderous effort for Real Kings (which was the last goal he scored in South Africa) remains etched in memory.

It’s testament to his class that he lasted in the Burundi national team for over a decade, having made his debut as a substitute in a 0–0 draw with the Seychelles national team on 1 June 2008. He went on and made 27 more appearances and scored three goals for the Swallows.

Papy is best remembered for helping the Swallows to book their ticket to attend the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations for their first time. He was the only player stated to be crazy over Burundi’s qualification after a second leg draw match against Gabon at Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura.

The Swallows midfielder made an unforgettable celebration after the qualification as he ran everywhere with the national team jersey in his hands, clenching his fist and showing his spectacular athletic body typical of a player of the highest level. He shouted, smiled and hugged the comrades who crossed his path on the lawn of the stadium.

Papy began his career at AS Inter Star in his native Burundi before making a move to Turkey where he joined Trabzonspor in year 2008.

At that time he was just 18 years old and his skills and power saw him being featured by Sports Magazine as one of the Ten African Players to watch in 2009.

On 24 June 2009, Papy was loaned to MVV Maastritcht before being released by his mother club in 2012 to join Bidvest Wits in South Africa.

Due to a heart problem, he left the Clever Boys in September 2016, although the midfielder stated clearly that he was not going for retirement.

After leaving Wits, Papy then landed a deal with then South Africa National First Division Side Real Kings in 2018 on a two year deal, which was later terminated months later.

In February 2019, he resurfaced in e-Swatini after allegedly being cleared by his doctors to play football in the Mountain Kingdom, despite his medical conditions related to heart complications.

Papy was buried in a Municipal Cemetery of Mpanda in northwest Bujumbura on May 14 2019, two weeks after his shocking death in e-Swatini

Over a year on, football will remember a fine player who grew up in poverty in Burundi and went on to play in one of the biggest leagues in Africa.

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