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My Debut: Nabi Kibunguchy

By William Strome, 06/11/21, 12:00PM PDT

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The defender returned home on loan where he earned his first-ever appearance in a professional match

Nabi’s soccer journey has taken him to UC Davis and Minnesota United, but his journey officially went full circle when he joined the club that he previously played in the Academy for – Sacramento Republic FC. 

On May 27, the Indomitable Club announced Nabi was joining on-loan from MLS’s Minnesota and just days later on June 2, the defender donned a Sacramento kit for the first-time during USL Championship play. 

During the Oakland match – a six-goal thriller that ended 3-3 with SRFC storming back from a goal down on two separate occasions – Nabi stepped onto a professional pitch for a league game for the first time in his promising, young career.  

It was a game, and a moment, Nabi will never forget. 

When did you find out you were going to be included in the 18-man matchday roster? 

Nabi Kibunguchy: “The first day of training after that, I knew I would play a part in the next game one way or another. But yeah, I was pretty excited. Once I got out here to get to training with the guys, when that moment came, it was wild.”

How did you find out, did Coach have a private conversation with you after training?

NK: “Yeah, it was sort of like, he told me after training I'd be included in the roster and just be ready for your moment sort of thing. So, mentally, I was just getting prepared for the Oakland game and just really visualizing on that moment so I'm happy it came that way.”

What do you remember about the day leading up to the match? 

NK: “Honestly my routine is really taking care of myself, my body, relaxing and just getting my mind and body right. It’s tough because those late, late kickoffs, you have the whole day to yourself and you just got to relax so I was just relaxing, getting my mind right my spirits up.” 

Over the course of the day, did you speak with any friends or family that said something that really stuck with you? 

NK: “Yeah, I was staying with my uncle the last couple of weeks and he's been giving me advice here and there. He was saying on that day just ‘be ready for the moment. You're here for a reason’ sort of thing.”

You’ve prepared for countless games before, but this one had to feel a little different returning to Sacramento. Is that accurate? 

NK: “Oh yeah, it felt different because I had never been in the professional game before, so the nerves are definitely there for sure. But I tried to calm myself, especially during the game when it started, just trying to calm myself, just be ready for the moment as much as I can, and ultimately just enjoy it.”

Was there anything special a coach or player told you before the match? 

NK: “Honestly, like most of the players were telling me just to be ready for the moment sort of thing. So, I was just keeping my mind right, just focus on the game, even when I was watching on the bench. Just focusing and really keying in just to be ready for my moment.”

How did you feel about your debut performance? 

NK: “I feel pretty good about my performance overall, especially in the limited minutes I got. I just told myself I wanted to make an impact on the game. When I went in the game, that's what I did. So, I was pretty pleased with my performance, especially in a position I never really played before. So, I was pretty happy overall, and I got a couple of good crosses in there. So, overall, pleased, I just wish we got the win.”

 What did the players and coaches tell you after your first professional game? 

NK: “Pretty much most of the guys and the staff congratulated me like afterwards on my professional debut and they were really happy for me and excited. Even a day after, I got the little tunnel treatment, everyone slapped me on the back sort of thing. Overall, it was a very happy moment for me. I actually after the game when I went home, I couldn't really sleep! I was still excited and everything, but it was a great time.”

What were you thinking about on the ride home?

NK: “It was tough to get sleep but on the ride home I was thinking to myself, I actually made my debut, especially for my hometown team. Not many people and professional players get to do that for their hometown, so I was very happy and blessed to be in that situation and just making the most of it going forward.”

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