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Africa's abandoned football legend

Andrew Harding | 12:23 UK time, Saturday, 5 June 2010

ndayecomposite226.jpgNdaye Mulamba hardly stands out in a crowd. He's a shuffling, stern, 60-year-old Congolese refugee, who struggles to speak English, and who passes unnoticed through the impoverished, crime-ridden townships that surround Cape Town.

But "Volvo" Ndaye is one of Africa's football legends, a dazzling striker who helped Zaire to qualify for the World Cup back in 1974, and who still holds the record for scoring most goals in a single African Cup of Nations tournament - scoring nine times in 1974.

Things started to go wrong for Ndaye in the mid-1990s, as Zaire descended into chaos and war. Eventually it would change its name to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Soldiers, who suspected the football hero might have cash to spare, shot him in the leg. The bullets are still there. Eventually Ndaye said he had to flee the country for his life, and ended up in Johannesburg, then Cape Town "with nothing".
"I had no family, and no money. All I could think about was where to get food. I felt abandoned [by the footballing community]," he said.

I spent the day with Ndaye last week and heard how he'd been rescued from the street by a South African family, how he'd started to coach local amateur football teams, and how he'd finally met and married a local woman. "It's like a circle," he said in French, searching for the right phrase to explain his long, tortuous journey. "But now I'm happy the World Cup has finally come to Africa."

Fifa seems to have taken Ndaye under its wing, but he told me he still doesn't have tickets for any of the matches in Cape Town, and plans to watch "on television instead, like everyone else". Although the DR Congo is also supportive, the country's football federation is apparently less keen to help Ndaye. "There are problems there," Ndaye said with a grunt.

We spoke about the 1974 World Cup. "I cry when I think about those days," he said. But he also talked about the circumstances of Zaire's notorious 9-0 defeat at the hands of Yugoslavia. He said prior to the match each member of the team had been promised $45,000 but that an official with the Zairean team had taken the money and left Germany. As a result, Ndaye said, "We decided not to play." Hence the result. When I suggested that might seem rather unpatriotic to some, he shrugged and said: "Of course it is about money."

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  • 1. At 5:52pm on 05 Jun 2010, Positive Change wrote:

    Things which stand out in this post.

    1)Townships in Cape Town just like most of South Africa are still poverty stiken and lack basic necessities yet, billions have been spent for this event which is nothing other than a few hard smiles for a couple of days.

    2. The love of money by some African leaders. A member of the Congolese delegation escaped with money in 1974 and 20 years later funds raised by Cameroonians to support their team dissappeared between Yaounde and Washington.

    One thing stands our clear, African leadersip is still the colonial breed. They are corrupt and work against the interest of ordinary Africans. It is about MONEY, it is about EXPLOITATION and that is the world. Thank you Harding this post.

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  • 2. At 10:30pm on 05 Jun 2010, AR4 - Mr Chris Brown - Samivin fabilson wrote:

    this makes me question is it really a good idea to host the world cup and spend billions of pounds in SA, when clearly the money could be spent elsewhere, for a better course. dont get me wrong, i love the beautiful game but human lives and happiness come before it, just, but still infornt of it.

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  • 3. At 08:45am on 06 Jun 2010, GingaNinja wrote:

    Can't believe he has no tickets. I'll be in Cape Town for the group stages and have a spare one. How do i track Ndaye down? It would be an honour to invite him as our guest.

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  • 4. At 10:10am on 06 Jun 2010, LilBeardCFC wrote:

    Much respect Ginger Ninja! Thats an amazingly kind thing to do and I think BBC should help you out here......

    Its great to see human kindness is still there!

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  • 5. At 12:09pm on 06 Jun 2010, The Mighty Thor wrote:

    Yes. BBC, please help Ginger Ninja make this happen.

    What a wonderful gesture.

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  • 6. At 12:18pm on 06 Jun 2010, Liban wrote:

    Well it's not new to me thinks like that happens every war torn country in africa or elseware. i'm Somalian origin and i remember many somalian national players ended up refugees europe, africa and North america and some still in Somalia last week one Somalians best playe ever died in Mogadishu heart had stopped his name was SHeikhalow.

    he was brillient player played internal levels scored wonderful goals in Arab leage cup 1980s money like Ndaye Mulamba are every where in africa and that is what africa do best neglec their stars no one cares people are strugling to feed their families.


    Drogba and other african stars plays europe are most luckiest ones.

    Atleast fifa should look after these players.

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  • 7. At 5:23pm on 06 Jun 2010, Andrew Harding BBC wrote:

    GingaNinja - that's extremely kind. Let me contact him and get back to you.

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  • 8. At 5:35pm on 06 Jun 2010, teapp001 wrote:

    I hope BBC will also get this man to the finals. If money is needed, I would be happy to contribute.

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  • 9. At 8:07pm on 06 Jun 2010, Emile Myburgh wrote:

    Dear Andrew, please let us know if you manage to get the ticket to Ndaye Mulamba. It would certainly be a news worthy event.

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  • 10. At 9:25pm on 06 Jun 2010, umsolopa wrote:

    andrew ...... please info me if yu happen to get in contact with volvo ndaye too. i have a tix for portugal vs democratic of korea game in capetown that i'm willing to give to him.

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  • 11. At 03:16am on 07 Jun 2010, AKMo wrote:

    Hello Andrew, thanks for the article. I may still have one ticket available for the 24 June match between the Netherlands and Cameroon in Cape Town, and if I do, I would like to invite M. Ndaye to join, if GingaNinja doesn't have a ticket for that match available.

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  • 12. At 05:48am on 07 Jun 2010, FlungeCDN wrote:

    I've sent a email to the SAF High Commission in Ottawa asking them to use this occasion to honour those pioneers.
    I urge you to do the same.

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  • 13. At 09:01am on 07 Jun 2010, anikulapo wrote:

    Being African I am ashamed at how we treat our heroes and how we forget the trailblazers so quickly.
    Thanks GiGingaNinja for doing what many of us would
    dream of doing if we had the chance. That's the true World cup
    Spirit, bringing us all together in our rivalry banter
    but moreso in our shared love for the game. GingaNinja, you are a legend!

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  • 14. At 11:43am on 07 Jun 2010, GingaNinja wrote:

    Brilliant news that we've started a wave of World Cup spirit. I have a spare for Italy vs Paraguay so, assuming Ndaye is available, that would be all of the group stage covered.

    In the bid to get in touch I also got in contact with the makers of Forgotten Gold - a documentary about his story. I'm not sure when the film would be coming out so let me know if anyone finds a screening.

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  • 15. At 2:10pm on 07 Jun 2010, Tshilobo wrote:

    Firstly, I would like to thank BBC for finding and bring up the case of this African Legend " Volvo Ndaye Mulamba" also Know as Ndaye MUTUBULA. Ndaye is player that africa SHOULD be proud and spoken every time this beautiful game is mentioned. As I am from RD Congo orgine, and pricesely same tribe as Ndaye, you have to watch this legend playing, this legend made my country proud and people happy, when he played made everyone smiled and cried with joyed. Compared to this big Fat Cats greedy Congolese leaders the country had just the record speak itself. I would like to have a chance to speak to this guy even on the phone. As cannot make to SA for the world cup this has made my year and thank Fifa and especially BBC for tracking this Legend of African football. Once more thanks. And I am here to help you in any capacity may this rise.

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  • 16. At 4:36pm on 07 Jun 2010, Upthedale wrote:

    GingaNinja, umsolopa and AKMo, this is why we love football..This is what it can do. A lot of respect has to be given for your totally unselfish and very kind actions...

    Hope you have a brilliant tournament and that 'Volvo' can be tracked down and can attend the fixtures with you to get a taste of the occasion

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  • 17. At 4:46pm on 07 Jun 2010, Andrew Harding BBC wrote:

    I spoke to Ndaye earlier today. He's very excited about the prospect of some tickets for matches in Cape Town. Interestingly, he told me he's just been invited to a special dinner for African soccer legends tomorrow night here in Johannesburg. The Confederation of African Football has also just taken him under his wing and is apparently trying to arrange to get him to the opening match. Can I suggest that anyone who is interested in giving Ndaye a ticket should send me an email at bbcjohannesburg@bbc.co.uk and we can then try to put you in touch with him directly (although be warned his French is a lot stronger than his English).

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  • 18. At 5:23pm on 07 Jun 2010, Tshilobo wrote:

    Thanks Andrew for more information. It sounds like that Volvo has not lost any of his spark as i can remember him. his very straightforward and welcoming person. i would like to know if you could pass him my email then we can be in touch as may have some supprise for him. This goes to show how much you have contribute in helping this lost legent of African football. His is my brother. i can speak to him in French, Tshiluba his mother tongue, swahili and likala. Pass him my message that i am wishing him well in whatever his doing now and almight prolong his like on earth and his and will always be the inspiration for many Afrcan players today.

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  • 19. At 03:34am on 08 Jun 2010, umsolopa wrote:

    andrew ..... good to hear yu got in contact w/volvo ndaye. i'll be emailing yu soon and am lookin forward to speak to an afrikan legend like ndaye. i could speak swahili to him. i also have some tix for couple of johannesburg games so it would be a pleasure to link up with him.

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  • 20. At 1:06pm on 08 Jun 2010, Richard wrote:

    I have to say am shocked and emotional at the way everyone here to seem be willing to help, Am glad to see that we as people can come together and make a difference to someone elses life even though we dont know that person personally. Am proud and to everyone of the posters on here i applaud you for your messages and kind gesture, Its a great thing to see people offering tickets to someone that made a difference in people's life in football..Kudos to you all from top to bottom.

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  • 21. At 3:16pm on 08 Jun 2010, DC_10 wrote:

    There seems to be a lot of world cup warmth on this topic. If anyone is handing out tickets I would be most thankful!

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  • 22. At 5:16pm on 08 Jun 2010, Monga wrote:

    HiI'm so pleased to hear all those cmment about this congolese legend, i remember him,by the time i was a little boy,as a congolese i am realy proud of Ndaye Mutumbula, i even remember is collegue of the team like,Kakoko, Mayanga, Mukombo,Kalambay and other.I would like to be in touch with this legend, please if you can do me a favour and put me in contact with this man Ndaye, there is a way i can help.
    I want also to thank you a lot for your work, this descovary of this legend.

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  • 23. At 4:27pm on 10 Jun 2010, Jochen Brömel wrote:

    Hello!

    I have read how bad it is Mr. Mulamba NDAY Mutumbula.
    I would like to help, I needed his address, I would also give mine.
    post to Jochen Broemel
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

    like helping, Greetings from Leipzig

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  • 24. At 11:00am on 14 Jun 2010, army74 wrote:

    If anyone is interested, I have written a blog on Zaire's 1974 World Cup, which includes a profile of the great man, Mulumaba Ndaye. The site can be found at www.zaire1974.blogspot.com

    Cheers

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  • 25. At 11:38am on 14 Jun 2010, GingaNinja wrote:

    We're meeting Ndaye today and taking him to the Italy Paraguay game. Can't wait to meet him. Managed to get in touch through Martina Della Tonga who made a documentary called Forgotten Gold about him. I'll post again and let you know how it went.

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