Forward Madison FC has re-signed 23-year-old midfielder Vital Nizigiyimana for its 2020 season, the club announced Monday. Nizigiyimana, who made the Flamingos’ inaugural roster via an open tryout, brought an inspirational story to Forward’s first year.
Nizigiyimana, who was born in Tanzania but grew up near Atlanta, played for both Madison College and the Madison 56ers. He found himself homeless, taking care of his teenage brother and ready to give up on soccer just weeks before going to Forward Madison’s open tryout in November 2018. He was the only player signed to the roster from that tryout.
“He was obviously the best player at the open tryout,” Forward Madison Head Coach Daryl Shore said at the time.
While he made the 18-man roster for a number of USL League One and US Open Cup matches, he only saw game action in a number of friendlies and exhibitions, including fixtures against Hertha Berlin, Leones Negros and Miinnesota United.
In a postseason interview, Shore praised Nizigiyimana’s work ethic and improvement.
“We didn’t pick Vital because we knew he was homeless. He came through a tryout process and impressed us and we felt like this is a kid that is going to be able to help us. And I know he didn’t play in a league game this year, but his improvement from day one to the last day has been great,” Shore said.
“Some people may think this is just a feel-good story, but we completely expect Vital will challenge for minutes on the field this year,” Shore said in a statement Monday. “You want to reward players for the effort they put in, and Vital worked as hard as anyone last year, even when he wasn’t getting playing time.”
“We’re just as excited to re-sign Vital as we are anyone else,” Shore said. “Every time we played him in exhibition games, he held his own, so this is a young kid who has great potential to become a very good soccer player.”
For Nizigiyimana, 2019 was a chance to settle in. 2020, then, could be the year he takes off.
“It was a learning experience for me,” Nizigiyimana said. “I was getting used to the fitness, getting used to the speed of it. I hadn’t played in a while, so I had to catch up. This year, I’m working hard in the offseason and so I can be ready to go.”