Resplendent in black and white, singing and banging their drums continuously, the TP Mazembe supporters have not gone unnoticed since arriving in Abu Dhabi from Congo DR. Their eye-catching traditional dress and dances have made them the centre of attention, providing onlookers with considerable entertainment in the stands as well as on the pitch at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009.
Although their journey to the United Arab Emirates - originally due to last eight hours – lasted much longer due to an unscheduled stop in Kenya, time is not something to which this group of supporters seem to pay much attention. Having waited 41 years for their team to win the CAF Champions League for a third time, a victory that automatically qualified the Lubumbashi club for the global showpiece, the Mazembe fans are simply enjoying the present. It seems that nothing will be able to spoil what ‘Robot’, self-appointed leader of the group of Crows supporters who have made the trip to Abu Dhabi, calls “this great football party.”
The Congolese supporters have been tremendous ambassadors for their country, as demonstrated by the incredible atmosphere that they created at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium during their team’s 2-1 defeat by Pohang Steelers. Since then, and despite that loss, the Crows fans have continued to make their presence felt at every match.
"We’re first and foremost football lovers," ‘Robot’ told FIFA.com, before going on to say with a grin: “But there’s obviously a bit more at stake for us when TP Mazembe are playing.”
It goes without saying that for these fervent supporters, this voyage of discovery to the Middle East is of the priceless variety, and also represents an investment that most would not normally have been able to afford. Without the aid of their chairman Moise Katumbi, “none of this would have been possible,” explained their unofficial spokesman.
By laying on transport and accommodation, Katumbi made it possible for the Congolese fans to cheer on their heroes at UAE 2009. To show their gratitude, the beneficiaries have been putting on an even greater show than usual, performing traditional dances on the terraces with vigour, irrespective of the teams involved, or indeed the weather.
The fifty or so supporters are due to make themselves heard once more in today’s fifth place play-off match against Auckland City. “It would really be a great achievement if we could pull off a victory,” said the enthusiastic ‘Robot’, promising that, whatever happens, he will take back plenty of happy memories from Abu Dhabi. Anyone who has had the fortune to bump into this band of merry supporters will no doubt have come away with the same feeling.