Special stories

Zaire played the WC 1974 threatened with death

After falling defeated by Yugoslavia by 9 goals to 0, the Zairian dictator went into a rage and seriously threatened the players.

It was the 85th minute of the Zaire vs Brazil match of the 1974 World Cup, there is no football episode of greater significance – in swimming Moussambani overcomes in the 2000 Sydney Olympics – in the history of football.

The referee pointed out a foul near the African area. Rivelino and company have already decided who will be responsible for hitting the ball and, suddenly, the Zairean barrier is dismissed as a possessed towards the ball Ilunga Mwepu and hits a kick to the strangeness of everyone in the stadium.

Zaireño’s masterful play is interpreted by some commentators as a sign of Zaire’s lack of knowledge of the rules. “It was a moment of African ignorance,” British narrator John Motson said from the European pedestal.

The story, however, is not that simple.

Zaire was not only a new name for football – it was the first black African team that qualified for a World Cup – but for the whole world.

With that name he had renamed Mobutu Sese Seko at the end of 1971 to the Congo, the country that barely a decade earlier had achieved its independence from Belgium.

Mobutu, who had ruled the Congolese State since 1965, had decided that the nickname “father of the nation” that excited him so much should be matched with a new country.

Already like Zaire, the national team managed not only to classify the German event but to proclaim itself champion of the African Cup.

Enraptured by such achievements, the dictator – who also renamed the selected one: decreed that they be called leopards instead of lions – rewarded the players with houses, cars and a trip for them and their families to the United States.

The fairy tale began to fall apart with the arrival of the school to West Germany.

The first match ended with a decent loss to Scotland by 2 to 0. Despite the effort made in a worthy debut, the government advisors accompanying the selection informed the players that they would cut the premiums to be charged for the World Cup.

It was the prelude to the collapse, materialized in the scandalous 9 to 0 that endorsed Yugoslavia to Zaire in the second game of the group.

At the end of the game, Mobutu, after getting into a rage, sent his presidential guards to the rally with an unequivocal warning.

“The slogan was: if we lost the last match by more than three goals, none was going to return home,” said Ilunga Mwepu in a documentary recorded years later.

The problem was that the last opponent was Brazil, current world champion for more signs.

In the first half the Brazilians only scored one goal. Oxygen began to run out for the Africans in the 80th minute, when Valdomiro scored the final goal. It was then that the unusual play took place starring Mwepu.

“Do you think I would have passed myself off as a perfect idiot in a deliberate way? We were playing for our lives, “he told Jon Spurling, author of” Death or glory: the dark history of the World Cup. “

Mobutu ruled the country until May 1997, when he was overthrown. Months later he died in exile in Morocco. The new regime changed its name again to the country: since then it has been called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And since that appearance in 1974, he never returned to a FIFA World Cup. But the day they do it, it will be a World Party.

Subscribe to our newsletter

I accept the Privacy policy

Cookies policy

This website uses its own and third party "cookies" to offer you a better experience and service. By browsing or using our services, you accept our use of "cookies". However, you can change the "cookies" settings at any time.