David Luiz – British football Club Arsenal’s Center back, is probably staying awake to memorise his encounter with the mountain Gorillas.
Luiz and his mother and fiancée were in Rwanda for a two-day visit this past weekend.
The Brazilian defender’s visit was part of the “Visit Rwanda” – a partnership deal between Arsenal and the government which also includes a focus on football development through a unique partnership between Arsenal, the Rwandan Football Federation and the national Ministry of Sports and Culture to develop and nurture local football talent at the grassroots level for girls and boys.
During the two-day visit, Luiz and his family trekked through the volcanoes to see Rwanda’s mountain gorillas.
During the incredible wildlife experience, they learnt about the country’s successful efforts to conserve and protect the gorillas and their habitat.
In Volcanoes National Park, Luiz and his family trekked to visit the Kwitonda family of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat and were amazed by this unique and incredible wildlife encounter.
Kwitonda family has a long history. In 2003, a Silverback crossed from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Rwanda – after intense pressure from other gorilla families in the area and so it moved to form a group of its own in a whole different neighbourhood.
The name Kwitonda was adopted from the dominant silverback in this group. Akarevuro who was young in the reign of Kwitonda has taken over the leadership after the demise of Kwitonda.
Luiz and his family took the time to learn this during their visit to the Gorillas.
Arsenal star David who also got the opportunity to learn about the country’s rich culture and natural wonders was also taken through how Rwandans have united to drive the country forward as a leading reformer in Africa.
Accompanied by his mother and fiancée, Luiz also visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial where he paid respects to the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
At the site, the Arsenal centre back learned about the causes of the Genocide and how Rwandans have built a new nation on a foundation of dignity and togetherness.
Together with his family, Luiz honoured the victims by laying a wreath and observing a moment of silence.
The Brazilian defender also met President Paul Kagame at his office, before heading to Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Rwanda’s Northern Province.
At the facility, Luiz planted an indigenous tree as part of efforts to reforest areas surrounding the stunning Volcanoes National Park – home to the endangered mountain gorillas.
Luiz and his family also enjoyed ‘Rwanda Night’ at the Lodge, which included traditional Rwandan dancing and drumming, as well as sampling the local cuisine.
From the north, Luiz then travelled back to Kigali to attend a national league football match at Kigali Regional Stadium where he met players, young Rwandans from the Irebero Goalkeeper Training Centre and enthusiastic fans.
Luiz concluded his trip by meeting hundreds of Arsenal fans at the Kigali Convention Centre where he answered questions on his experience in Rwanda and his life and football career.
Helping to build awareness of Rwanda as a welcoming and culturally rich tourist hotspot, Luiz was the first Arsenal first-team player to visit Rwanda since the partnership’s launch last season.
He follows in the footsteps of Arsenal legends Alex Scott, Tony Adams and Lauren who have previously participated in the country’s Kwita Izina Gorilla naming ceremony – a prestigious celebration of Rwandan conservation and culture.
Before going back to the UK, Luiz said, “It has been incredible to learn about this wonderful country and experience the welcoming spirit of the Rwandan people. I came with the curiosity to learn about the country, considering what it went through 25 years ago.
I have to say I was inspired by how fast it has moved forward and how it has become a progressive, fast-growing nation with so many amazing things to see and do,”
“My family and I are so thankful for the opportunity to come here and see the passion of football fans, experience Rwanda’s culture and witness breath-taking scenery. From trekking to see mountain gorillas to watching local football and mixing with fans of all ages, it has been a humbling and wonderful experience.”
On his experience about Rwanda, Luiz said, “We can’t wait to come back and see even more of this beautiful country. I’m going to recommend all my friends to spend their holidays in Rwanda.”
Rwanda Development Board Chief Executive Officer, Clare Akamanzi said, “It has been fantastic hosting David and his family in Rwanda and we are glad he enjoyed every moment of his stay. David created a real bond with the local community. Rwanda is a must-see travel destination and we are happy David and his family experienced the best the country has to offer, from world-class hospitality options to once in a lifetime experiences like trekking the endangered mountain gorilla. We look forward to seeing David in Rwanda again, and welcoming more Arsenal players, fans and tourists from around the world to our beautiful country.”