Gaël Bigirimana (Kirundi pronunciation: [ɡaˈeːl βiɟiriˈmaːnaː]; born 22 October 1993) is a Burundian footballer who plays as a midfielder for Scottish club Motherwell.
Born in Burundi, Bigirimana moved to the United Kingdom with his family as a refugee in 2004 and chose to represent England at under-20 level in 2013, later representing his country of birth in 2015.
Bigirimana was born in Bujumbura, Burundi but moved to the United Kingdom with his family as a refugee in 2004, having spent time living in Uganda. He was taken on trial having asked at Coventry City's academy training facility.
Graduating from the Sky Blues' youth set-up to sign his first professional deal for the club in the summer of 2011 and playing a role the Sky Blues' first team pre-season preparations for the 2011–12 campaign, Bigirimana made his professional debut on 8 August 2011 in a 1–0 Championship defeat by Leicester City, playing the full 90 minutes.
On 6 July 2012, Bigirimana signed for Premier League club Newcastle United. United's website confirmed Bigirimana had signed a five-year contract for an undisclosed fee, believed to be between £500,000 and £1,000,000. His competitive debut came on 23 August 2012, in Newcastle's 1–1 draw with Greek side Atromitos, in their UEFA Europa League play-off round match, before making his home Premier League debut on 2 September 2012 in a 1–1 draw with Aston Villa as a substitute for the injured Danny Simpson. He scored his first professional goal on 3 December to complete a 3–0 home win against Wigan Athletic after two earlier goals by Demba Ba.
On 2 February 2015, Bigirimana signed for Scottish Championship club Rangers F.C. on loan until the end of the 2014–15 season. He never made an appearance for the club due to an undisclosed medical condition, leading to the then Rangers manager Stuart McCall to suggest the club should never have signed him in the first place.
Coventry City (return)
On 16 November 2015, Bigirimana returned to Coventry City on an emergency loan until 3 January 2016. His loan was extended until 24 January, following five appearances in the league, with three of them starts. On 14 January, his loan was further extended until the end of the season, with no option to recall.
Ahead of the 2016-17 season, Bigirimana signed a one-year deal with Coventry City cancelling his contract with Newcastle United. He scored his first goal for Coventry in an EFL Trophy tie against Wycombe Wanderers on 9 November 2016. Bigirimana started and scored the first goal for Coventry in the 2016-17 EFL Trophy Final against Oxford United, which Coventry went on to win 2-1.
Bigirimana signed a two-year contract with Scottish Premiership club Motherwell in June 2017.
In April 2012, Bigirimana announced that he would like to play for Rwanda at international level. He was later considered by Rwanda for the 2013 African Youth Championship qualification stage. In October, Bigirimana stated that he had rejected an international call-up from Burundi due to political instability in the country.
In May 2013, Bigirimana was called up to the provisional England squad for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup. On 28 May 2013, he was named in the final squad by manager Peter Taylor. He made his debut on 16 June, in a 3–0 win in a warm-up game against Uruguay.
On 15 November 2015, Bigirimana made his debut for Burundi during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification as a starter against DR Congo. The match finished 2–2 but FIFA awarded DR Congo a 3–0 win as a result of the fielding of Bigirimana, who was ineligible.
Bigirimana was born in Bujumbura to a Burundian father and a Rwandan mother. He married during the 2016 summer to former Miss Coventry and law graduate, Natalia Leigh. Their first daughter was born on 1 April 2017, 24 hours before the final of the EFL trophy which Coventry won and Bigirimana scored.
- As of match played 3 November 2018
|Club||Season||League||National Cup||League Cup||Other||Total|
|Newcastle United||2012–13||Premier League||13||1||1||0||1||0||9||0||24||1|
|Rangers (loan)||2014–15||Scottish Championship||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Coventry City (loan)||2015–16||League One||13||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||13||0|
|Coventry City||2016–17||League One||30||0||3||0||0||0||7||2||39||2|
- Championship Apprentice of the Year Award: 2011–12
- EFL Trophy: 2016-17