By Robson Sharuko
HARARE-CONGOLESE giants TP Mazembe underlined their status as the dominant African football club in the past seven years when they added the CAF Confederation Cup to their trophy cabinet.
P Mazembe overpowered Algerian side MO Bejaia 4-1 in Lubumbashi at the weekend with an attacking masterclass.
The comprehensive victory, inspired by a brace by Zambian captain Rainford Kalaba, gave TP Mazembe a 5-2 aggregate victory over the Algerian side and ensured the two major CAF inter-club trophies have been won by Southern African Development Community clubs in the same season for the first time in history.
Kalaba scored his eighth goal of the campaign while Congolese international, Jonathan Bolingi, made it four in the tournament as TP Mazembe, who held their rivals to a 1-1 draw in Algeria, showed the gulf in class between the two clubs and ensured another victory, in a major final, for the Lubumbashi giants.
Mazembe have won more trophies, on the continent, in the past seven years than any other club.
They have won three CAF Champions League titles in 2009, 2010 and 2015, the CAF Confederation Cup this year after being runners-up, in the same tournament, three years ago, three CAF Super Cup titles in 2010, 2011 and 2016 and they will battle for the CAF Super Cup title with South African and African champions Mamelodi Sundowns in February next year.
The Congolese giants are also the only African side to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup in 2010 when they lost to Italian side Inter Milan.
Mazembe’s victory was probably celebrated, too, in a number of African countries who provide players for the Lubumbashi giants with Zambia having four players, in that squad, led by the irresistible Kalaba, Mali with three players, Cote d’Ivoire with two, Niger and Zimbabwe with a player each and Ghana with three players.
Ghana internationals Daniel Nii Adjei said he was grateful to Mazembe for giving him a chance to showcase his talents.
“It’s a great feeling for me. I’m now a CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup winner. I’m really happy and will forever remember this day because this is the only trophy that Mazembe had not won before in our history,” Adjei said.
“I could not achieve a lot in Ghana but Congo and TP Mazembe have given me the perfect platform to showcase my talent. I know the supporters are excited and will forever remember my role in this achievement we chalked over the years.”
It was also a maiden CAF inter-club trophy for French coach Hubert Velud.
The triumph came six years after he was shot in the arm by Angolan rebels when the Togolese national team, which he was coaching back then, was ambushed as they drove to their 2010 Nations Cup base.
That incident, which claimed the lives of Togolese national team media officer Stanislas Ocloo, assistant team manager Abalo Amelete and driver Mario Adjoua, while leaving a number of players and officials wounded after being showered by bullets for more than 30 minutes in Cabinda, didn’t dilute Velud’s interest in working in Africa.
The Togolese withdrew from the tournament, after returning home to grieve with their dead comrades, and were later punished by CAF for their withdrawal while team captain Emmanuel Adebayor announced his retirement from international football only to make another comeback a few months later.
Velud has remained in the trenches of African football and won the Algerian championship with ES Setif and USM Alger but the CAF Confederation Cup triumph with Mazembe represented his finest hour on the continent.
Mazembe, ended more than 40 years of waiting to win the biggest prize in club football on the continent when they won the CAF Champions League in 2009. The triumph ushered in their golden era in Africa, spurred by the millions which have been poured into their coffers by Congolese millionaire, Moise Katumbi.
The businessman’s money has given Mazembe the financial muscle not only to bring some of the best players in Africa but also some of the best technical minds and the triumphant players displayed a huge banner, with the picture of their president in the background, during their victory parade inside the stadium.
Katumbi is having his political challenges this year after declaring his intentions to replace Congolese President Joseph Kabila in elections that were originally set for next month but which have now been postponed.
He left the DRC in June this year, saying he was going to seek medical treatment, and during his absence he was sentenced to three years in jail over a real estate dispute, something he dismisses as politically motivated by his opponents.
On Sunday, after Mazembe won, he tweeted to congratulate the team for their success saying he dedicated the victory to all the people of the DRC.
“With work, discipline and vision, #DRC can win! The @TP Mazembe showed with this victory which is dedicated to the Congolese,” Katumbi said on Twitter.