|Lubumbashi, Haut-Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo|
Something about the Congolese city of Lubumbashi has always fascinated me. Maybe its because of its prominence in the Congolese civil war from 1960-1963. In colonial and post-colonial Congo, Lubumbashi was called Elisabethville and was the centre of power in the mineral-rich province of Katanga. As we learnt in history, Katanga attempted an unsuccessful (in?)famous secession from the Congo in 1960 which lead to a series of unfortunate events.
Many years ago, before I went to college, I became BFFs (Best Friends Forever) with a guy from Lubumbashi I met in Cape Town, South Africa called Hugues. In an eerie coincidence, while in college in the US , a random chat with a Haitian-American woman revealed that not only had she grown up in the Congo but her's and Hugues' family were very close acquaintances. This was really beyond happenstance!
But I digress. I was talking about Lubumbashi. The fair city has been in the news recently for reasons that have little to do with civil war, mineral-wealth or irrelevant 1 degree of separation stories. This time its all about 'The Beautiful Game'.
|TP Mazembe Football Club|
Tomorrow, the Lubumbashi-based football club Tout Puissant Mazembe (All-punishing Mazembe) will face F.C. Internazionale Milano in the FIFA Club World Cup. This is the first time an African team has reached the finals and in case you were in doubt, Internazionale Milano go by the popular name of 'Inter Milan'.
Inter Milan are the current holders of the UEFA Champions league and can boast of the likes of Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon, Javier Zanetti of Argentina, Sulley Muntari of Ghana and former player Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden. Quizzically, nobody I have spoken to seems to be able to identify even one TP Mazembe player.
|Zlatan Ibrahimovic: The (former) pride of Inter Milan.|
Although the match may just be a case of David up against Goliath, TP Mazembe have done very well for themselves in recent years. They are currently the holders of the CAF Champions League for a second year in a row. The fact that they have reached the FIFA Club World Cup is not only a credit to African football but to Africa as a whole. Let's face it, club football in Africa is in the doldrums and with the popularity of the English, Spanish, Italian , French and German premier leagues on the continent, you are more likely to find people in Accra who are fans of Chelsea of London than Hearts of Oak of Accra.
TP Mazembe is boldly opening up a world of possibilities and showing us all what African club football can be. Tomorrow I'm firmly behind the boys from Lubumbashi all the way. Allez TP Mazembe - may you indeed live up to your name!!