If winning the CAF Champions League last year was, in itself, an admirable feat for TP Mazembe Englebert of Congo DR, their successful defence of the title this season was even more impressive. Nor was it the first time the Lubumbashi club has lifted the prestigious trophy in successive years: their original back-to-back triumphs came in 1967 and 1968, and were followed by runner's-up spots in 1969 and 1970. TP Mazembe added an African Cup Winners’ Cup to their list of honours in 1980, further enhancing their continental pedigree. And though it would be almost 30 years before Les Corbeaux (The Crows) again won an African title, they continued to assert themselves at domestic level. Indeed, five of their ten national championships were secured during the last decade, as was one of their five national cups.
In reaching the summit of African club football in 2009, TP Mazembe earned themselves a maiden appearace at the FIFA Club World Cup. Their players clearly enjoyed the experience and now return to Abu Dhabi for a second bite of the cherry. During this season’s quest for a second successive Champions League title, the Congolese side experienced many memorable highs, including a stunning 5-0 demolition of Esperance Sportive de Tunis in the first leg of the continental final in Lubumbashi. There were also disappointing lows, like the 3-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of the same Tunisian opponents during the group phase, the year-long suspension imposed on prolific striker Tresor Mabi Mputu and the departure of coach Diego Garzitto. Former Senegal international Lamine N’Diaye took up the reins in September, instilling an efficient and confident style of play that was there for all to see during both legs of the recent final.
The four-time African champions will have one advantage over some of their potential adversaries at the FIFA Club World Cup 2010; that of experience. Having come up short in their maiden appearance last December, first losing 2-1 to Pohang Steelers at the quarter-final stage, then succumbing 3-2 to Auckland City in the match for fifth place, pressure-induced stage fright should be less of a factor for Mazembe this time around. The majority of the squad that took part in the 2009 adventure are still with the club, and they will be out to prove they have learned from that campaign. Also of significance is the new mindset brought about by N’Diaye. “They’re a different side now,” points out club chairman Moise Katumbi, adding, “Every player wants to be out on the pitch, fighting for the team and winning games. Lamine N’Diaye has fostered a real fighting spirit.”
Facts and figures
Pierre Kalala, Kamunda Tshinabu, Andre Kalonzo, Leonard Saidi, Robert Kazadi, Tshimenu Bwanga, Dieumerci Mbokani
After flirting with a first-round elimination against APR of Rwanda but eventually emerging triumphant 2-1 on aggregate, TP Mazembe then overcame Malian outfit Djoliba 4-0 over two legs. It was a result that qualified the Congolese club for the group stage, where they finished second behind Esperance in Group A. After seeing off JS Kabylie of Algeria in the semi-final, the Crows met up with their Tunisian foes once again in the final, following up a convincing home victory with a solid away draw for a 6-1 aggregate win.
The numbers game
2 – For the second time in their history, TP Mazembe have won two Champions League titles in a row. Having secured the continental crown on the last two occasions to emulate their triumphs of 1967 and 1968, they are now set to make their second consecutive appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup.