Home 2011 – Diego
Sitting just across the river from their bigger, brasher more murderous DRC namesake, the Republic of Congo has by contrast largely slipped under the international media radar, this despite managing to get bogged down in three civil wars of their own between 1993 and 2003 and the fact that each of these wars was fought against a militia group going by the unlikely title of the “Ninja Gorillas.” Seriously, why am I just learning about this now? This is the sort of thing BBC News 24 was made for. Somebody dispatch Kate Adie and her permanently harrowed expression to Brazzaville immediately, she might still get there before Sky swoop in and bag the screening rights for their inevitable death match against Kung Fu Panda.
A great gap-fill for Sky Sports whenever their ‘Super Sunday’ comprises Huddersfield vs Bournemouth, or Crystal Palace vs anybody.
Anyway, the Congo has been presided over since 1997 by President Denis Sassou Nguesso, a chap who clearly gives zero fucks seeing how he once reportedly blew $400,000 on 44 rooms for himself and his entourage at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel during a UN assembly meeting, including, according to the Sunday Times, $800 on Champagne and over $14,000 on room service. This at a time when his country had recently received a massive debt relief package from the World Bank. What an arsehole. I bet he nicked all the soaps and towels as well.
Amongst the Congo’s more eccentric claims to fame is that the country is home to the ‘Mokele-mbembe’ aka ‘Africa’s Loch Ness Monster, a long-necked aquatic dinosaur said to inhabit the isolated Lake Tete in the dense northern jungles. Over the years several excursions have been launched to find the elusive beast, with some explorers allegedly managing to snap a photograph only to be thwarted in their attempts to present the evidence by substandard filming equipment, an unfortunate habit of forgetting to remove the lens cap or the fact that they were chatting shit. According to local Pygmies, Mokele-mbembe is a spirit being rather than a physical creature, although this is somewhat at odds with a 1959 claim from the same tribe that they had once killed and eaten one. Legend has it that all those who feasted on the animal’s flesh subsequently died a wretched death, which is what happens when you serve up a supernatural prehistoric deity without checking if it’s cooked properly in the middle.
On the football front, Congo’s national team are predominantly a middle ranking power in the African game. Though often eclipsed by their cousins from the neighbouring Democratic Republic/Zaire, Les Diables Rouges (the Red Devils) have certainly had their moments, most notably winning the 1972 African Cup of Nations by knocking out hosts Cameroon in the semis before edging a a thrilling final 3-2 against Mali. The Congolese also won gold in the football tournament of the inaugural All-Africa Games in 1965, albeit in rather odd circumstances as they were awarded the final match (also vs Mali) on the basis of having won more corners (7-2) after a goalless draw.
Since this heyday however, the Congolese have managed just three AFCON appearances in the tournament’s last 20 editions. Their most recent participation came in 2015, where the team unexpectedly topped a tough first round group to set up a Congo derby with their neighbours in the quarter-finals. Sadly, despite racing into a 2-0 lead in the second half, the DRC would ultimately stage a late flurry to win 4-2, with each goal prompting this beauty of a celebration from their goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba. Honestly, I hope his mum wasn’t watching. Think of how many grass stains he must have accumulated.
Finally, we could conclude this section by discussing the team’s dreadful lack of form in 2017 (winless all year as of the end of October) or some prominent Congolese players to have graced the English Premier League such as ex Blackburn defender Christopher Samba, but I’d much rather give a shout out to the chap with the best, and quite possibly least politically correct sounding name in existence, former Hannover 96 and Congo national team striker Bongo Christ. That. Is. Epic. You can piss off with your Danny Invincibles and David Goodwillies, we have a clear winner in the daft category. Apparently he sometimes goes by “Christ Bongo” as if that were somehow less chucklesome.
Not exactly the most thrilling piece of polyester in my collection, this shirt is extraordinary only in it’s ordinariness. To be fair, Congo designs have always been less push the boat out and more drag it inland and bludgeon it to death with the boring stick, as evidenced by the numerous Adidas templates they’ve donned over the year teams, none of which, to my knowledge at least, were ever made commercially available. This version from Diego (whoever they, or indeed he is) seems to have been worn at the 2011 under-17 World Cup where the team reached the last 16, although I can’t find any evidence of a senior team ever putting it to use. Still, I’m going to count it, especially, as previously stated, there’s not exactly a surplus of these floating around.
Right, that’s it, all done writing about countries called Congo. I’m off to Sports Direct now to see if I can persuade them to print the name “Bongo Christ” across the back of this shirt without getting barred from the store.