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Mwepu Ilunga

Mwepu Ilunga
Full nameJoseph Mwepu Ilunga
Date of birth(1949-08-22)22 August 1949
Place of birthBelgian Congo
Date of death8 May 2015(2015-05-08) (aged 65)
Place of deathKinshasa, DR Congo
Playing positionDefender
Senior career*
TP Mazembe
National team

Joseph Mwepu Ilunga (22 August 1949 – 8 May 2015) was a football defender from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). His name is also written as Alunga Mwepu.

Club career

He played club football for Englebert TP Mazembe in his native Zaire,[1] with whom he won the 1967 African Cup of Champions and 1968 African Cup of Champions.[2]

International career

1974 World Cup

Ilunga played for his country, then called Zaire, during the 1974 FIFA World Cup, where he became famous for running out of his team's defensive wall and kicking away a Brazilian free kick in the group match between the two nations (the final match in Group 2) before the ball was in play.[3] He was subsequently cautioned, but some commentators felt that he seemed oblivious as to what he had done wrong.

However, Ilunga claimed that he was quite aware of the rules – as would be expected from an experienced player in a successful side – and was hoping to convince the referee to send him off. The intended red card would have been a protest against his country's authorities, who were alleged to be depriving the players of their rightful earnings.[4] Zaire went on to lose that match 3–0.[5] They also lost their first two matches to Scotland 2–0 and Yugoslavia 9–0.

Zaire were then the first sub-Saharan African team to qualify for the World Cup finals; however, during the tournament the players discovered they would not be paid.[6] "Most of the Brazilian players and the crowd thought that it was all hilarious, amateur act. I just could scream 'you cursed!' for all them, because nobody there knew the pressure that we was living".[7]


Ilunga died in May 2015 after a long illness[8] in the Saint-Joseph de Limete Hospital, Kinshasa.[2]


  1. ^ Zaïre's World Cup squad 1974 - Planet World Cup
  2. ^ a b Foot: l’ancien Léopard Joseph Ilunga Mwepu décédé à l’âge de 66 ans - Radio Okapi Invalid language code.
  3. ^ Top 50 football moments at the Wayback Machine (archived June 21, 2007) (Accessed June 10, 2006)[dead link]
  4. ^ "BBC Sport - Football - Zaire free-kick farce explained". BBC News. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  5. ^ Official FIFA match report (Accessed June 10, 2006)
  6. ^ BBC Sport - "1974: Zaire's show of shame" (Accessed June 10, 2006)
  7. ^ "Famosos por 15 minutos", FourFourTwo, número 3, janeiro de 2009, Editora Cádiz, págs. 62-65
  8. ^ "Former Zaire defender Mwepu Ilunga dies aged 66 after long illness". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 

External links