This is a case that Congolese football, already plagued by many institutional, structural, legal and sporting difficulties, would have done well. It concerns Tout Puissant Mazembe, one of the best clubs in Africa and whose owner is none other than Moïse Katumbi, candidate for the next presidential election in the DRC, scheduled for December.
On Friday May 26, the French freelance journalist Romain Molina revealed on the Sport News Africa website that five players from the under-17 team, who are training at the Katumbi Academy, had enjoyed a stay in Italy to flee.
The Katumbi Academy was indeed participating in the Lazio Cup, a tournament reserved for young people and organized by Lazio Rome. After passing the first round, the Congolese faced in the quarter-finals the Ukrainian formation of FC Rukh Lviv. The match ended in a heavy defeat (0-6), but the context in which the young Ravens evolved can explain this difficult end to the tournament.
Indeed, four of them had passed out in the wild. They had left their comrades a few hours after a defeat in the group stage against the Italians of Latina (0-2). The teenagers had fled by taking one of the emergency exits from the Trieste hotel in Fiuggi, while they were enjoying a break granted by their companions. A fifth player slipped away after the quarter-final, in the middle of the night.
A planned operation
Tout Puissant Mazembe, which had not mentioned the case either on its website or on social networks, decided to react after the publication of Romain Molina's article on Sport News Africa, via a press release. The coaches of the under-17 team alerted the Roman police and Italian justice was seized.
Frenchman of Congolese origin Jean-Claude Loboko, director of the Katumbi Academy, confirms that the five teenagers benefited from outside complicity: "The first four to flee were expected outside the hotel by a car, which drove to the town of Colleferro. There, they were hosted for a few days by a Congolese woman who had been living in Italy for several years. We do not know where they are currently, but we are convinced that they want to join a French-speaking country, France or Belgium mainly. »
The fifth player to have slipped company to the Congolese delegation is currently in France. "We know that a member of his family, who lives in France, was waiting for him near our hotel," continues Jean-Claude Loboko. The Congolese had asked the hotel management, as soon as they arrived in Italy, for the emergency exits to be temporarily blocked, a request rejected for security reasons, the establishment being frequented by many tourists.
FIFA and UEFA seized
For the director of the Katumbi Academy, there is no doubt that everything had been planned in advance. “The facts are there. The players did not take the bus or the train to reach Calloferro from Fiuggi, but a private car. Same thing for the one who left for France, adds Mr. Loboko. We have learned that a man who resides in the Democratic Republic of Congo has dangled the boys' families with the prospect of signing contracts with European clubs. »
The Congolese club has obviously seized UEFA and FIFA, so that the two authorities prevent the signing of the five players concerned in formations of the Old Continent. “They signed a formal training contract with Katumbi Academy. Therefore, it will not be possible for them to join another club, especially since they are minors, "says Jean-Claude Loboko.
The latter will stay a few days in Italy for the purposes of the investigation, while the rest of the delegation has returned to Lubumbashi: "What we hope is that the five players will be quickly found and that they will return to the Republic. Democratic Republic of the Congo. They risk nothing but deportation. On the other hand, the adults involved in this affair expose themselves to legal sanctions.