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Crowning moment for African club football

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Piers Edwards | 10:06 UK time, Thursday, 16 December 2010

TP Mazembe's place in Saturday's final of the 2010 Fifa Club World Cup is not just a huge success for African football but also a personal triumph for the club's philanthropic chairman Moise Katumbi.

His hard work and huge financial investment has now been rewarded by a dream match-up against European champions Inter Milan, replete with one of Africa's finest sons, Samuel Eto'o.

"Beating [Brazilians] Internacional [2-0 in Tuesday's semi-final] has made me forget all the effort I've ever invested into the team," Katumbi laughed after his club sealed their spot in the final.

For when the businessman and governor of mineral-rich Katanga province took charge of Mazembe in the mid-1990s, the Democratic Republic of Congo's most popular club was struggling.

They had won only two league championships in a quarter of a century, meaning their African club titles of 1967 and 1968 had become indelible reminders of just how far the Lubumbashi club had fallen.

Now though, Mazembe will become the first team from outside Europe or South America to contest the Club World Cup final, with the defeat of Internacional all the more remarkable given how seriously South American sides take the tournament.

Katumbi has invested so much in Mazembe's success

"My vision when I joined this club was to make Mazembe one of Africa's strongest teams and that's why I've worked so hard to make it happen," Katumbi, 46, has previously told the BBC. "I grew up in a big business family in the province, so learned the challenge of making something work early on."

Although he has said his vision still will not be realised even if Mazembe defeat Inter, Katumbi has already put the club - thanks to a triumph that spelt humiliation for their Brazilian foes and fans - on the map.

Like many a sleeping giant, the story of Mazembe's return to the top, and then beyond, is one of an incredibly wealthy childhood fan who is happy to plough his millions into the club.

Earlier this year, Katumbi and his board announced a budget of US$10m for the team - a massive sum for an African club even when taking into account the chairman's untold riches.

"People can call me mad but if they do, they are going to have to call plenty of people mad," he explained. "Those who love cars spend millions of dollars on them, those who love women spend millions on them and holidays, while others are dazzled by gold, diamonds, etc.

"Football is my hobby so I try to budget all the money I make so I can put it into Mazembe - you have to love the game because you can't do this if you don't. I've even got my little boy, who is 17 months old, singing Mazembe songs."

The chairman's largesse does not just extend to the team but its fans as well and if you have seen Mazembe in Abu Dhabi, you cannot have failed to notice or hear their colourful band of 150-odd trumpet-wielding fans - whose entire stay (flights, visas, hotel etc.) is funded by Katumbi.

And under his control, Mazembe have flourished, winning five league titles in the last decade as well as the last two editions of the African Champions League.

He is a man who leaves few things to chance. Even after winning the opening leg of this year's final against Tunisia's Esperance by a whopping five-goal margin, Katumbi still took the team on an extended camp to Europe to focus while also stressing the need for his players to avoid complacency.

Behind this lay an intense desire to make amends at the Club World Cup following their ignominious debut in 2009, when the 'Crows' felt they had let Africa down by losing to both South Koreans Pohang Steelers and then New Zealand's Auckland City.

Then, there had been expectations that many players, especially talented captain Tresor Mputu Mabi, would be leaving the club earlier in 2010 but the floodgates have yet to open. Will they now after this year's impressive displays?

Kidiaba has made a name for himself with his extraordinary bottom-bouncing celebrations

Mazembe, who have a youth academy preparing for such an eventuality, still had to defend their African crown without their star player anyway - after Mputu earned a one-year ban, along with team-mate Guy Lisadisu, after the duo fiercely abused a referee during a tournament in Rwanda in May.

The 'Crows' also had to achieve success without their coach from last year after Argentine Diego Garzitto surprisingly left the club in September, meaning former Senegal coach Lamine Ndiaye came in and he has been credited with emphasising the need for hard work and total concentration.

The sub-Saharans, who feel the weight of African support behind them, have learnt from last year's Club World Cup experience and their own mistakes, which included sending the players on leave until only five days before their opening match.

And now they are ensuring that Africa is finishing 2010 on a high after the continent's theoretically-stellar year was dimmed by the attack on the Togolese bus at the Nations Cup and then the poor African performances - Ghana aside - at the World Cup in South Africa.

Against Inter, it will be fascinating to see how dangerman Alain Dioko Kaluyituka, who stretched the Brazilian defence with his speed when given the chance, and goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba, who was in inspired form against Internacional (thankfully so given Mazembe's often-porous defence), fare.

Kidiaba is famed for his smile-inducing bottom-bouncing celebrations, and one wonders how he might react on Saturday should the African club be crowned the world's best - and whether he might just find Katumbi shuffling alongside him.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    It's a shame but I did not realise that they had beaten Internacional until now, such has been the meagre coverage of this event in the U.K. Will be interesting to see how they compete against Inter. It would also be great for African football (and South American football) if some of these clubs can hold onto their players longer before the European clubs come calling.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good blog Piers. Katumbi is really doing a good job. One worrying thing is the DR Congo national team which never performs like TP does. Reason? Politics!

  • Comment number 3.

    Interesting stuff. I too was unaware of this result - is the final being shown anywhere on TV?

  • Comment number 4.

    'The chairman's largesse does not just extend to the team but its fans as well and if you have seen Mazembe in Abu Dhabi, you cannot have failed to notice or hear their colourful band of 150-odd trumpet-wielding fans - whose entire stay (flights, visas, hotel etc.) is funded by Katumbi.'

    Although this is a relatively small thing in the multi-million pound world of football, I find it pleasing that some wealthy owners still display enough passion and commitment to things like this...

    Cant see the Glazers paying for my United band anytime soon.... :(

  • Comment number 5.

    Inter new coach 2011-2012: Fabio Capello
    New striker partnership: Tevez + Rooney.

    Yes u heard it here first.

  • Comment number 6.

    If this competition is to gain genuine recognition across the globe, it needs strong teams from all parts of the world. An African winner would be fantastic, and the way Inter are playing at the moment, you wouldn't rule it out.

    http://footballfutbolfitba.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 7.

    I too was unaware of the score until I seen it say who Inter would play!

    Good luck to them. I hope they trash Inter, although i feel even a poor inter with all the top european experience they have, will be too strong.

    Saying that, its a funny old game football. I defo be supporting the africans.

    PS: I think there is only highlights available in the UK. Certianly ESPN has them, but i dont think its live here....which is a shame

  • Comment number 8.

    It is incredible that Katumbi is viewed as a hero, yet what is the difference between him and Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour. I am sure rival teams in DR Congo hate what he is doing and the possibility that he may create a league that is won by just one team. He must be getting first pick of the best players in the country.

  • Comment number 9.

    Their fans are MENTAL. They start blaring out Waka Waka on the trumpets during matches. BUt a brilliant job by this team from Doctor Congo.

  • Comment number 10.

    The World Club Cup just came of age.

    I hope that now one of the minnows has upset one of the giants of European/Sth American football that this tournament will start to get a bit more exposure and more prestige.

    I also wonder what the seeding will be next year. Surely, for reaching the final, next year's African champion should get a bye to the semis.

    Alternatively, the competition should be expanded to eight teams (6 continental champions, the host country's champions, and the holders), with a straight knockout format with all teams starting at the same stage.

    I think Europe's top teams can afford to extend their stay for the additional one game that this format change would require.

  • Comment number 11.

    Agree with what has been said here about the poor coverage of the event in the UK, although the BBC has at least brought us two blogs highlighting the event, with another from Tim Vickery. He makes the interesting point of how we don't view the tournament as worthy of much merit in the UK and Europe, which is a shame.
    It's nice to see a team from Africa performing well at last. The national teams are starting to find their feet at world cups, and the club teams will be hoping to follow suit. Hopefully in a few years time, club teams from South America and Africa will be able to compete on a more level playing field with European sides. The shifting economic landscape will make this more possible as these sides may be able to hold on to their more talented players for longer.
    And whilst i do not agree with the decision to host the 2022 WC cup in Qatar, hopfully more Asian countries will start to perform above their current level in the future, beyond just Japan and South korea

  • Comment number 12.

    Kidiaba would be fairly nondescript if were not for that haircut and bum-bouncing celebration. Although I do think he is a solid goalie.

    Congo DR (Zaire) - First Sub-Saharan African team to a World Cup
    Mazembe - First Sub-Saharan African team to a World Club Cup final.

    I think had it not been for years of civil war and problems with the organisation of the Congo DR national team, we might have seen them at plenty more World Cups. Its inexplicable why they are 124th in the World with such a massive population. Hopefully the success of Mazembe leads to greater success nationally.



  • Comment number 13.

    @5 mjeeryford:
    and pigs can fly!

    Excellent blog, I did see the reports on Sky News. Well done to them and wish them all the best in the final.

  • Comment number 14.

    Excellent news from Congo, I had no idea this club was soing so well. Remember them from a few champions league matches I'd watched in Nigeria.
    Don't you just love this guy's analogy; some love cars, some women ... and so it is for us all. With the super rich it is 'mega' when they find expression in their hobbies. It's a good thing he has football, it goes around more this way.
    All the best in the finals.

  • Comment number 15.

    Brilliant blog! Great to see more of African club teams on the world stage. Normally, the only time I hear about them is when their best players are being bought by European sides. Best of luck to TP Mazembe!

    http://www.inofftheghost.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 16.

    Thanks to them atlist somthing good comes out off africa.

  • Comment number 17.

    I hope you all understand that this victory is not some kind of 'milestone' and that we have to take African club football seriously..very unlikely we will see any kind of competitive African club football in our lifetime.
    It was a fluke, a great fluke.

    I expect Inter to walk away with the tie.

  • Comment number 18.

    @Blaffert,

    What makes you say it was a fluke? Did the Refs give them goals to reach the final? No. TP Mazembe deserved to reach the final.
    We are not saying that Mazembe is now Barca. We are just acknowledging the fact that they made a record by reaching the CWC final. We are also saying things are improving in Africa.
    Don't be too sure about Inter Milan. Remember Mourinho is no longer there. Whether Mazembe wins the final or not, the fact remains that they have improved!

  • Comment number 19.

    Inter all the way!

    (Stop pretending to care about African football)

  • Comment number 20.

    "...Its inexplicable why they are 124th in the World with such a massive population..."

    Tell that to the Chinese and the Indians - what positions are they in the FIFA rankings, again?

  • Comment number 21.

    For those asking about it being on TV, the semi-finals were on ESPN so I'm guessing the final will be as well. It would be nice to see an African team win the tournament but I think Inter, despite their current problems, have way too much class in their side and it could end up being a bit embarrassing. I think a score of 5-1 or 6-1 isn't too far fetched. I hope I'm wrong. Good blog Piers, great read.

  • Comment number 22.

    Maybe Fifa can orchestrate a win for a middle-eastern team in their competition next? ;)...just kidding - before I get my head bitten off!

    Truthfully, no-one seems to care for this comp or know it's even on.

  • Comment number 23.

    Inter all the way!

    (Stop pretending to care about African football)

    Think it's an englishmans desire to see the underdog triumph more then anythign else...

    And you should care abotu African Football not to far off being a force in world football...

  • Comment number 24.

    IT SEEMS NOBODY IS GIVING MAZEMBE A CHANCE BUT SOMETHING TELLS ME THEY MIGHT BE CROWNED THE CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD.TILL THEN,LET'S WAIT,WATCH AND SEE.

  • Comment number 25.

    I just picked up my tickets for the final. I've never been so proud of a team. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's game.

    Allez TP Mazembe!

  • Comment number 26.

    I wish there can be more cups involving African teams and this so called best team from the northern side of the world.

    Remember what Orlando Pirates did to Tottenhum Hotspurs in South Africa.

    When South Africa was to host the World Cup everyone said it will not succeed,Give TP Mazembe a chance(Viva Africa)

  • Comment number 27.

    the full hilights are on ESPN (and HD) at 945pm tomorrow night. Think the ko is 12pm gmt ?.....but cant see if its on live anywhere on virginmedia listings :(

  • Comment number 28.

    Have a read of my blog looking at whether youth football should be played in the summer!

    http://upper90magazine.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/umbrellas-for-goal-posts/

  • Comment number 29.

    5. At 12:48pm on 16 Dec 2010, mjerryford wrote:
    Inter new coach 2011-2012: Fabio Capello
    New striker partnership: Tevez + Rooney.

    Yes u heard it here first.

    ------
    What's this got to do with the article???

    Allez Almighty Mazembe!!!

  • Comment number 30.

    If TP has proven all you guys wrong, so shall Arsenal against Barca.

    Go TOUPISANT Go!

  • Comment number 31.

    In terms of the final's kick-off, it's at 9pm local time in Abu Dhabi - which is 1700 GMT. I can't find anyone showing it live here in the UK - ESPN did do that for the semis - but they only seem to be showing a delayed feed at 2145 GMT today.

  • Comment number 32.

    Toupisant Mazembe
    I only knew it would be just months before they amaze the entire world
    looking at them play you could see them playing with flair understanding and thanx the more to their physical method of playing which any African team on a good day can outwit their European counterparts with
    They deserve to lift the trophy and by God's grace they would
    Like they say in the french
    l'équipe sont très bon
    Allez TP et gagnez
    Je vous aimez Mazembe
    Make us proud over in Nigeria
    Come on boys come on
    show Benitez he's got a match with you in a bad time

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.


    Nice blog. Congrats to TP Mazembe. All the best in the finals.

  • Comment number 35.

    FC Internazionale Milano: World Champions

    I like the sound of that.

 

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