After triumphing in the Under-20 Africa Youth Championship which they hosted in 2007 in the cities of Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, the young Red Devils of Congo have failed to qualify for subsequent continental championships.
Going into the 2015 CAF U-20 finals to be held in Senegal, the Congo have high hopes of making it. But they must first overcome Benin over two-legs before they can think of the next qualifying round and dream of ending the long spell of absence from Africa’s premier youth championship which also serves as qualifiers for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup finals. This week, Congo host Benin in Brazzaville and will be looking to consolidating the first leg 2-1 win to progress.
As Congo prepares for the weekend clash against Benin, we look back at the success of 2007 and track down some of the youth who made history for Congolese football.
In 2005, President Denis Sassou N’guesso established the National Football Training Centre (NFTC), at the Alphonse-Massamba-Débat stadium, to accelerate the advancement of Congolese football.
Following the establishment of the NFTC, top French side AJ Auxerre came on board to give a massive boost to the Congolese vision of establishing a centre that would churn out the best of the country’s talents and usher them onto the national and international stage from where they would compete to bring honour to Congo. Auxerre provided the game’s technical experts to provide the expertise required for expert training and development at the centre.
It was further established that the best players emerging from the NTCF would go on to the Auxerre training centre in France to further their development and playing careers.
With the centre fully functional, many observers predicted that within the abundance of talent and expert training players were to undergo at the NFTC, the Congo team would become stronger and even more competitive, others reckoning that within two years of being operational, top stars would emerge and go on to star for Congo.
Seven years later, the Congo national team transformation is yet to materialise in line with the vision and early predictions of how successful it would be.
But within two years of opening the NFTC, Congo became youth champions. Of the 18 African youth championship winning players who went on to secure a spot in the round of sixteen of the U-20 World Cup in Canada later that year, Delvin Chanel Ndinga became the only player to successfully ply his trade in Europe. Fabrice Nguessi Ondama joined Morocco’s Wydad of Casablanca.
The duo was rated as the most prominent in the young Red Devils team of 2007.
Of that winning squad of 2007, six were admitted into the Auxerre Centre – Cécil Magouel Filanckembo, Jules Fred Albin Ondjola, Oxence Dorian Mbani Madzou, Olfaga Okiélé, Murhyen Kester Mereck Bindoumou, Delvin Ndinga. Of these, only Delvin Ndinga eventually lived up to the lofty expectations and challenges of European football and coach Eddie Hudanski.
Delvin Ndinga went on to become the first and only Congolese player to have played in the European Champions League first with Auxerre and then with Olympiakos, his current club. Before heading for Greece, he defended the colours of France’s AS Monaco.
For the remaining teammates who did not prove to be equally as good, there were the CFA 2 sides in France for which many settled.
Cecil Magouel Filanckembo currently plays for Saint Colomban. Jules Fred Albin Ondjola is currently without a team. Oxence Dorian Mbani Madzou plays for Saint Louis Neuweg. Destin Onka Malonga is with AFL Mende, Yann Haris Kombo Melo is with Ailly sur Somme alongside Chirel Ngakosso and Gracia Gastherie Ikouma Epogo plays for Gonfreville.
Fabrice Nguessi Ondama, the player of the 2007 U-20 Tournament, had signed for Rennes but was later expelled from the club for disciplinary reasons. He returned to Congo and joined the Black Devils who played the 2014 Orange CAF Champions League pre-group stages.
After the club was eliminated from the Champions League by Entente Sportive de Sétif, Wydad Athlétique of Casablanca spotted him.
Francel Ibara has been ‘unlucky’, and many observers are still grappling to comprehend the course his career is taking and decisions he has made regarding his calling. After signing a contract with the Sochaux reserve team, he sustained a knee injury and his refusal to undergo an operation forced Sochaux to cancel their contract with player from the class of the youth of 2007 who was the first to make a mark with the Congo senior squad, the Red Devils of Congo.
Upon his return in Congo, he joined his former side, Etoile du Congo before catching the attention of the management of the DRC side AS Vita Club of Kinshasa. After a brief spell in Kinshasa, he returned to Congo again where he joined the ranks of the AC Leopards of Dolisie in 2012. At the start of the present season, he returned to his first club Etoile du Congo and played only one game due to a leg injury in training.
The locally based players
Ibara now looks set to be among the group of the class 2007 based at home. Hermann Preston Lakolo, is a 2012 Orange Confederation Cup winner with the AC Leopards of Dolisie. He is currently a valuable member of the team and also the only 2007 African Youth champion to have participated in the last CHAN tournament.
Lakolo played three World Cup 2014 qualifier games with the national ‘A’ team. He was also a member of the provisional squad selected for the game against Namibia before being dropped prior to the first leg of Afcon Morocco 2015 which Congo lost 1-0 in Windhoek.
Saïde Nkounga Kimbongui (Etoile du Congo) and Stevie Loparimi from FC Kondzo have not been at their peak lately but remain hopeful of a call up for national duty.
After an unsuccessful career in Europe in the reserve teams of AJ Auxerre, Olfaga Okiélé returned home this season, to his former club, The Cara.
Yan Véra Ahoungou Mbissa played last season in Pointe-noire. He is yet to take to any competitive action this season. It is also worth mentioning that two players, Harris Brandt Tchilimbou Mavoungou (FC Missile) and the goalkeeper Rufin Vanesla Diapamba (Sogea) are in Gabon with respective named clubs.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) News
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