An admirable display versus Pohang Steelers in the quarter-final of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009 ensured that TP Mazembe goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba could hold his head high in defeat. His assured handling and reflex saves kept the South Korean outfit at bay for long periods, before he eventually succumbed to the ruthless finishing of Denilson.
In a youthful Crows side, Kidiaba represents the Old Guard. His wise, controlled tones give him a gentle air, in direct contrast with the leaps, bounds and will to win that he manifests on the pitch. Prior to the match for fifth place in the ongoing global club tournament, FIFA.com took some time to chat with the 33-year-old.
The first thing he notes is that his long journey might well have been curtailed prematurely if things had turned out differently. “I was about to hang up my gloves last year – the plan was to become a goalkeeping coach,” he said. “But I rediscovered the desire to keep playing, and it’s still there now.”
The FIFA Club World Cup has seen Kidiaba soar to new heights, something of which he is well aware: “I was so determined to do well - I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take part in this incredible competition.”
However, he is quick to downplay his role and emphasise the team aspect. “Collectively, as a team, we played really well, it was only in front of goal that we let ourselves down a little,” he said, before going on to list the Crows’ main strengths. “Apart from the keeper?” he joked, "great team spirit, a steely discipline and bags of courage on the field.”
Despite the commendable modesty on show, it is difficult to overlook Kidiaba’s individual performances, which have earned him numerous call-ups to the national team following his first cap back in 2002. And having started out as a striker, this gives him a notable mental advantage when forwards come bearing down on his goal.
Three Congo DR league titles (in 2006, 2007 and 2009), plus the CAF Champions League trophy in 2009 in the colours of Mazembe, have satisfied the hunger of Kidiaba, even though his thoughts do migrate north from time to time. “Yes, I do still harbour dreams of playing in Europe,” he revealed.
He has never been averse to attracting attention to himself, not least for his slightly unusual celebration routine, which basically consists of bouncing up and down on his backside. “When it comes down to it, it’s just a variation on doing sit-ups. It’s my own little way of expressing the joy that I feel, and it makes up for the fact that I can’t run to the other end of the ground to celebrate the goal with my team-mates.”
Another chance to indulge in his party piece will present itself on Wednesday, when Mazembe meet Auckland City in a match to decide fifth place. With huge numbers of supporters in Lubumbashi avidly following the progress of the African champions in Abu Dhabi, Kidiaba and Co are eager to please.
“We really want fifth place," he declared. "It's a game we feel we must win. Not just for ourselves, but for our supporters, for Congo DR and for Africa”.