Sometimes we should just accept funny moments as they are without any further explanation. In the case of Zaire becoming the first sub-Saharan African qualifiers for a World Cup Finals back in 1974, without going into further detail and seeing the classic clip of this with the free kick many of us believed that the Zaire team were just that naive that they actually believed that they had not broken any rule and were justified in what they had done. Taking it like that does make it very funny and Frank Skinner and David Baddiel did a great job in highlighting it in the video clip below and Ilunga Mwepu was a great sport in participating in the reenactment despite the real reasons for his actions.
But when we look deeper into what was really happening at the time, there is a lot more to this story than first meets the eye. It emerged that Mobutu Sese Seko - the Zaire leader at the time was constantly intervening with team affairs. On qualifying for the finals he had showered the team with gifts of new houses and cars. Mobutu's generals became extremely jealous of this and Mobutu had ended up buying them cars too to keep the peace.
It gave the squad the belief that during the finals that they would be returning home as millionaires - but nothing could be further from the truth and the real problems even occurred during the tournament when the squad found out about it. Mwepu has openly talked about this since and accused officials of the Zairean football federation of pocketing their wages and allowances at the tournament. Having lost 0-2 to Scotland in their opening game they prepared to play their second group game against Yugoslavia. It was just before this game that they discovered that they were not going to get paid and were on the verge of refusing to play. Last minute persuasion made them change their mind but rather being as combative as they had been against the Scots - the Leopards did not put up a fight and went down 0-9.
After the defeat Mobutu was involved again sending presidential guards to threaten the team and were warned that if they lost by four or more goals against Brazil in their final game they would not be able to return home. A 0-3 final scoreline meant that they avoided this outcome.
Mwepu - an experienced defender in the team also tells a different story regarding why he actually did what he did with the free-kick. He was in fact quite aware of what he was doing and was actually trying to get himself sent off deliberately as a protest against his country's authorities. The Brazil players, most of the crowd and everybody at home watching on TV just thought that it was a hilarious moment but when you look into the real reasoning behind some actions they do make more sense than just a moment of craziness that we look back upon with laughter.
I know this is not in anyway football related but deciding which blog to put this in was a toss-up between this blog and "Other Sports" and by putting it there it would be even more out of place than here!
For those of you old enough to remember the days on TV of good old family fun game shows, I count as the lucky ones (the younger generations would probably disagree!) Plus to do them as a combined effort between seven different European countries making them compete in mainly ridiculously crazy events on live TV was asking for trouble. Actually, I believe that Britain was one of the few countries that did not show it live - maybe they were wise and viewed the content first before putting out a condensed hour long show rather than the 2-3 hour live spectacular.
Yes - this was the sports equivalent of the Euro-Vision song contest and whereas the British heats were usually extremely lame and were usually held in places like Pontins at some seaside resort in the afternoon, the European finals were all at night adding to the atmosphere and the inventors of some of the games had took it a whole new level.
I said that we were the lucky ones if we remembered this show and below are a couple of videos that go some way to showing everybody else why. The legend that is Stuart Hall, now at 82 years old and still working for Radio 5 Live as a football reporter (finally managed to link this into football!!) was our British host for the heats and our main commentator for the European finals along with his side-kick Eddie Waring (normally a rugby league commentator). More than once did Hall sound as if his laughter was causing him to have an actual accident with the penguin game being a fine example of that. Its also nice to see that fair play between us and our European cousins is being observed throughout the Ostrich game - perhaps it explains where we are in the football world today!
Love him or loathe him, Jose Mourinho is one of the most charismatic managers in the modern game. So much so that Setanta Sports modeled a comedic puppet show with the Jose "Special One" puppet in the lead role. The show was originally known as "I'm on Setanta Sports" but later on became known simply as "Special 1 TV". After Setanta's demise in the UK the show was picked up BBC3 in 2010 for the World Cup and ran through until the end of the 2010-11 season.