Document Type

Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Football (Soccer) in Africa


Among the giants of African football, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has had, since its first participation in continental and world competitions, its moments of glory and demise. The paradox of Congolese football is epitomized by its success during times of political dictatorship, winning two African Cup of Nations (1968 and 1974) under the Mobutu regime, and its decline during times of democratic trials, failing to either qualify for or advance beyond the group stage of Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA competitions. Without any doubt, the DRC has always been blessed with both human and natural resources. However, in football, like many other spheres of Congolese life, these resources have tended to be mismanaged or simply squandered. As a result, fame without fortune appears to be the norm for Congolese football players loyal to their homeland. While football has tended to serve as the “opium of the people,” the players have often been left to fend for themselves leading most of them to immigrate to countries with greener football pastures. Perhaps the resurgence of the dominance of the Congolese big clubs (especially, Tout Puissant [TP] Mazembe and Association Sportive [AS] Vita Club) in continental competitions coupled with the success of the local-based national team players who have won two of the African Nations Championship titles (2009 and 2016) might be signaling a new era in Congolese football. However, the premature eliminations of TP Mazembe, Maniema Union, and AS Vita Club from the 2021–2022 editions of the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup coupled with the Leopards’ poor performances in their 2019 Cup of Nations, 2020 CHAN, and 2022 World Cup qualifying matches could instead signal the persistence of all the chronic systemic issues inherent in Congolese football.