Although they may not be at the 2018 World Cup, the Democratic Republic of Congo have eleven representatives there playing for other nations. Not only are they playing at the World Cup but all eleven players made it to the knockout stages. So Africa does after all have a team in the second round of the World Cup.
If it weren’t for alleged strife corruption and mismanagement on the federation’s part they would have attracted a few of these players and convinced them to join their ranks. The central African nation’s last and only appearance at the World Cup came in 1974 in West Germany and they were the first Sub Saharan country to appear at a World Cup. Since then DR Congo has suffered a series of coups, civil wars and assassinations of prominent government officials, which has left the country in a state of instability leaving many Congolese with no option but to leave their homeland. These are the eleven players currently involved in Russia that could’ve played for the Leopards of Congo.
Steve Mandanda – Goalkeeper – France
The Marseille shot stopper is at his third World Cup with Les Bleus. He was born in Kinshasathen Zaire. He moved to France as a teenager and starting his career with Le Harve. He has two younger brothers Parfait and Riffi Mandanda who both turn out for DR Congo at senior and U-20 level respectively.
Dedryck Boyata – Centre Back – Belgium
The Celtic centre half played in all of Belgium’s three group games. The former Manchester City man is the son of a former Congolese player who played his club football in Belgium where Dedryck Boyata was born.
Vincent Kompany – Centre Back – Belgium
Manchester City’s captain was born in Belgium to a Congolese father and a Belgian mother. He made his debut for Belgium at the age of 17. He is involved in a lot of charity work for the DR Congo and pays regular visits to his father’s country of birth.
Presnel Kimpembe – Centre Back – France
The young PSG defender had actually played for the DR Congo’s U-20 team against Austria’s U-20 side, although they lost the game, the little known Kimpembe was outstanding, catching the eye of many. This prompted DR Congo’s national team coach Florent Ibenge to immediately call him up to the senior side for a friendly with Iraq, an offer which he declined and he instead accepted an offer from the French U-20 national team to play a set of friendlies against Qatar and Uruguay. His father is from DR Congo and his mother is from Haiti.
Youri Tielemans – Midfielder – Belgium
Once the winner of the Ebony Shoe Award in the Belgian Pro League, an award given to the best African player or player of African origin in the Belgian League. The Monaco man is born in Belgium to a father of Belgian origin and a Congolese mother.
Steven Nzonzi – Midfielder – France
The lanky Sevilla midfielder had a stellar showing this season for the Andalusian club earning him his first cap for the French national team at the age of 28. Before this he was approached by the DR Congo football federation on numerous occasions, each time he turned them down citing that they clearly had lots of problems at the administrative level.
Denis Zakaria – Midfielder – Switzerland
Borussia Monchengladbach’s 21 year old defensive midfielder is representing Switzerland, but his parents are of South Sudanese and Congolese heritage.
Blaise Matuidi – Midfielder - France
Another representative from France’s squad. He played an important role in helping France neutralize Lionel Messi and knock Argentina out in the second round of this World Cup. The strong tackling, tactically disciplined Juventus man is born to an Angolan father and a Congolese mother who moved to France in the early 1980s, Matuidi is fluent in Lingala which is a dialect spoken in the DRC.
Isaac Thelin – Forward – Sweden
The Sweden man has made three late substitute appearances at this World Cup. His father is of Congolese origin and his mother is Swedish. He plays for Anderlecht in the Belgian Pro League.
Michy Batshuayi – Forward – Belgium
The Dreadlocked Chelsea forward spent last season on loan at Borussia Dortmund. He was born in Brussels, Belgium to parents from The DR Congo. There was much talk of him representing the Leopards of Congo whilst he was playing for Olympique De Marseille as he had been contacted by the Congolese federation, but he quickly moved to quash the allegations by releasing a statement mentioning his allegiance to the Belgian national team but also acknowledging his Congolese roots.
Romelu Lukaku – Forward – Belgium
‘Big Rom’ the Manchester United man is an important member of the Belgian squad coached by Roberto Martinez. He is the son of former Zaire forward Roger Lukaku who played for Zaire at the 1994 and 1996 African Nations Cups. He played for clubs in Turkey and Belgium where Romelu was born. DR Congo national team winger Yannick Bolasie who formed a formidable partnership with Lukaku at Everton claimed that they used to speak in Lingala to each other on the field and this was their secret weapon. Lingala is a dialect used in the DRC. He stated that they were both very proud of their Congolese heritage.
Just imagining these players lining up alongside the likes of Mbokani, Bakambu, Bolasie, Kabananga and Mbemba would leave any African football enthusiast pondering at how great a team this would be.