- Chadrac Akolo left Congo DR as a 14-year-old
- Akolo previously turned down an opportunity to play for the Leopards
- He is the third Congo DR international to play for VfB Stuttgart
When Chadrac Akolo left FC Corbeau, the club he played for as a youngster in Lembe on the outskirts of Kinshasa, he had no idea that he would be back several years later to don the national team jersey.
“It all started at that club and even though I didn't think I had a lot of talent, people who watched me said I had potential and could go far," Akolo told FIFA.com. "When I arrived in Switzerland I realised that I could possibly go further with my football and that it could take me places.”
After breaking through into the FC Sion first team, he was called up to play for the Congo DR side. At the time, he turned them down, with a potential opportunity to represent Switzerland seeing him consider his international future. However, when Florent Ibenge came calling a few months ago, he decided to join up with the Leopards squad.
The game of the yearAkolo joined Ibenge’s team for the vital back-to-back matches against Tunisia. In the first game in Rades in the beginning of September, he was an unused substitute as the Leopards went down 2-1.
Three days later, 80,000 fans packed the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa to see their team take on the Carthage Eagles. Goals by Chancel Mbemba and Paul Jose Mpoku gave the home side a two-goal lead, but their joy was short lived as the North Africans equalised within the space of two minutes. Akolo again started on the bench, but was thrown in the deep end midway through the second half.
Like his team-mates, he was downbeat after the game ended in a 2-2 draw, though he says he will always remember the match.
“It is difficult to think of it," Akolo said. "It was the game of the year in Congo DR, people's expectations were incredibly high. We're sad we couldn't make all those people happy, we were sad of not fulfilling their expectations. But there will always be a soft spot in my heart for this first game in the Leopards jersey.”
Missed opportunityThe 2-2 draw sees Tunisia leading Group A by three points from Congo DR and Akolo says he is still disappointed.
“I have been replaying the game in my head a few times since... I don't know how we ended up not winning this game. Luckily, I did play just a few days after this match and scored (his first Bundesliga goal for VfB Stuttgart). So it prevented me from thinking too much about this game.”
With only the group winners making it through to the finals, Tunisia are clearly in the driving seat, but Akolo has not ruled out a trip to Russia next year.
“We still have a chance, even if everyone sees us as already eliminated," Akolo said. "There are two games left. We would not have been qualified if we had beaten Tunisia, and we are still alive although we drew.
"We need to win our two games," the Stuttgart man concluded. "Then hope Tunisia will make a mistake. We no longer have our fate in our hands. But we should remain focused on what we have to do and then hope for the rest."