AFCON Stories – 1974: Pierre Ndaye Mulamba at the peak of his powers – At a glance

Pierre Ndaye Mulamba’s name has gone down in the annals of both Zairean (now DRC) and African soccer. The Congolese guided his country to victory at the 1974 African Cup of Nations. The former Vita Club player, who died in 2019, is still the top scorer in an African Cup of Nations tournament. Here’s a look back at the saga of the man who wasn’t destined for soccer at the 1974 AFCON.


The top scorer at an African Cup of Nations finals since 1974

Pierre Ndaye Mulamba built his legend during the 1974 AFCON, which took place in Egypt. 8 teams, divided into two pools, lined up on the starting line. One was made up of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt and Guinea. Group 2 comprised Zaire, Mauritius, Uganda and Zambia. Mulamba got the tournament off to a flying start. He played a key role in his country’s 2-1 victory over Guinea in the opening match. He was mute in the next match, which pitted Congo against Zaire. This match ended in defeat (2-1) against neighboring Congo (now Congo Brazza).

Pierre Ndaye got back on track for the final group match with a goal in his country’s 4-1 win over Mauritius. He ended the group phase as top scorer with 3 goals. At a time when a win offered 2 points, Zaire finished 2nd.

Semi-final against Egypt: Mutumuba disgusts the hosts

Zaire face the host country in the semi-final. A huge task, but Mulamba is in the form of his life. Egypt had led by up to 2 goals. But a minute after Egypt’s second goal, the then 26-year-old put his team back on track (55th). Mantantou brought the 2 teams level (2-2, 61st min). Who better to put Congo on the road to victory than Pierre Ndaye. He took matters into his own hands and scored the winning goal, anaesthetizing the boiling hot crowd at the Cairo International Stadium, and indeed the whole country.

Zambia won the other semi-final against Congo. Final score (4-2). The final of the competition, which began on March 1, was played on March 12, with Zambia taking on Zaire.

The 2 teams went head-to-head throughout the final. At the end of normal time, the score was 1-1. Mulamba had brought his team back into the match from 1-0 down. He thought he had given them victory in extra time (117th), but the Chipolopolo equalized in the final minute (2-2). The rules stipulated that a draw at the end of extra time gave rise to a second match.

So, two days after the first edition, Mulamba was back to his old tricks and producing his usual performance.

In fact, he literally carried the Leopards into this new final with his umpteenth brace (30th, 76th), enabling the country to claim its second continental trophy.

Mobutu: “The cup for the country

The man who was destined for a career as a schoolteacher ended the tournament with 9 goals, 5 more than his closest rival. And to think he could have missed out on such a career. His father predestined him for a career as a teacher. Here’s what he had to say on one of the fields where his son’s exploits took place, in front of President Kasa-Vubu. He had just scored a double at the age of 14.”There’s no question of my son playing soccer. It’s not a profession. Soccer is for good-for-nothings.

The player’s honours include best player of the tournament and top scorer. He was also named in the tournament’s top team.

Mobutu and the Congolese people triumphantly welcomed the heroes back. Mobutu addressed the team’s Star in particular. “I asked you last week by telephone to bring the cup back home, and you did it.I’ll remember that. The Leopards each received a car and a house as a reward.

In the same year, Zaire became the 1st African country to play in a World Cup.
In 1974, Zaire became the first African team to play in a World Cup. But the campaign turned into a fiasco for a number of reasons, not least financial. The Leopards left the competition with 3 defeats, including a crushing 9-0 loss to Yugoslavia. Pierre Ndaye was inadvertently sent off in this match (2nd in the tournament) for a kick administered by a team-mate to the referee. He was also sentenced to a one-year suspension, which FIFA later overturned.

The player took part in the 1976 African Cup of Nations, where he scored just one goal against Sudan in the final group match.Zaire left the tournament prematurely. This also sounded the death knell for his international career. The player continued his club career with Vita until 1988 (224 matches, 116 goals).

His beginnings.

A precocious talent, Pierre Ndaye Mulamba was already making a name for himself at the age of 14. His first cap came in 1968. The genius piled up the goals in local soccer under the colors of Renaissance du Kasaï, then Union Saint-Gilloise. His prowess was not enough for the man nicknamed “Mutumbula” (the “bogeyman”) to be selected for the 1968, 1970 and 1972 African Cup of Nations.

The player worked hard, gaining experience and honing his skills during a brief spell with AS Kasaï, but above all with Vita Club, whom he joined in 1972. Pierre Ndaye Mulamba became the club’s star striker, piling up the goals. In 1973, Pierre played an active role in the club’s victory in the African Cup of Champions Clubs. This was undoubtedly the turning point for him in the national team. That same year, he played his first game for the French national team, although he had been called up several times in the past, without ever setting foot on the pitch.

A sad end to his life

Almost anonymous after his retirement, the former Zairean was remembered by Africans in 1994. Issa Hayatou and CAF honored him at a ceremony held on the sidelines of the 1994 CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia. He was awarded a medal. It was this medal that set him on a collision course with the powers that be. Indeed, after the ceremony, Congo’s Minister of Sport asked him for his award, to give it as a gift to Mobutu. Mutumbula did not agree to this request, according to his account in his biography “La mort m’attendra”.

A few days later, he and his family (his wife and 3 children) were attacked in their Congo home. The legend is left for dead near a bridge, where he is rescued by street kids. He recovers from a coma and 3 cardiac arrests. His youngest son (aged 9 at the time) succumbed to a rifle wound.

Pierre was sent to South Africa for treatment, never to leave the country again, except briefly in 2005, when he received a tribute from FIFA President Blatter in his native country.

He was forbidden to talk about his life and his problems. A heartbreaker!

Dignified to the end of his life

It was in 2009 that he received a tribute befitting his career. Specifically, at the draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup? in his adopted country. In front of an august gathering, Pierre Ndaye Mulamba declared during his speech, on the verge of tears: “My life hasn’t always been easy. Soccer has brought me as much joy as pain. But today, I’m happy. Happy because this World Cup will be played in my country, South Africa; happy because not one but six African countries will be taking part in the competition, and I will support them with all my heart and all my strength. Happy because, by inviting me here today, you have done me an immense honor.”

Mutumuba finally passed away 10 years later, on January 26, 2019 at the age of 70.

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