Investment in TP Mazembe pays dividends

By James Melik
Reporter, Business Daily, BBC World Service

  • Published
Fan celebrating TP Mazembe win over Brazilian club Internacional
Image caption,
A fan from the DRC celebrates TP Mazembe's win over the Brazilian club Internacional

By beating Sport Club Internacional 2-0 to become the first team from outside Europe and South America to qualify for the final of the Fifa Club World Cup, TP Mazembe has proved that investment in African clubs is paying dividends.

Goals from Mulota Kabangu and Dioko Kaluyituka secured arguably the greatest ever win by an African club.

"We are representing Africa and all of Africa is proud of our work," TP Mazembe's Senegalese coach Lamine N'Diaye says.

The club, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is expected to make $4m (£2.6m) just by reaching the final - and even more if they win.

In global football terms that is a paltry sum but in the DRC, which is one of the poorest nations in the world where the average wage is less than $1 a day, it represents a huge sum of money.

National celebration

This small club from a corner of the DRC, 1,000 miles west of the capital Kinshasa, is representing not only its country but an entire continent.

It is a tremendous boost to the game in the year in which South Africa hosted the World Cup.

"The streets of Kinshasa have been filled with people waving flags and honking their horns, many of them dressed in TP Mazembe colours regardless of which club they support," says local journalist Michael Kavanagh.

"This is good for Africa - I have forgotten all the effort it has taken to get this far," says the club's president Moise Katumbi.

Rich pickings

All this must bring a smile to the face of Mr Katumbi.

He not only owns the club, but he is also the governor of Katanga Province - one of the world's richest regions for copper and the world's biggest source of cobalt.

He has been involved in mining, transportation, fishing and television for years and, after he relinquishes his governorship in 2011, he says he is going to continue investing in his football club.

Image caption,
In the 2009 tournament TP Mazembe came sixth out of the seven teams competing

The current budget for the team is $10m a year and Mr Katumbi has acquired players from Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The budget for TP Mazembe has tripled since 2008 and this is the second year in a row that the team has made the Club World Cup.

Mr Katumbi's investment is definitely paying dividends and the team now functions like a professional football club - selling advertising on shirts and having contracts for players.

Mr Katumbi has deep pockets but that has not prevented TP Mazembe from losing to other teams in the DRC.

"There is a lot of football talent in Africa and it is just a question of marshalling that talent," says journalist Michael Kavanagh.

"Teams in sub-Saharan Africa are inspired and think that if TP Mazembe can achieve that with only an investment of $10m, then they can do it too," he adds.

The success of TP Mazembe should attract more money into the game - money which will help local talent stay in the country and continue to play for African teams - rather than being lured to clubs in Europe.

Africa's national sides did not perform too well in the World Cup but if players are kept in Africa it must benefit the national teams.

The next few years could be an exciting time for African football.

Faith rewarded

As a reward for their loyalty, Mr Katumbi has paid for 100 fans to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi to see the final against Inter Milan.

"They are preparing for a big game and shouldn't get distracted," says Bennett Lupinda, a tennis coach by profession and one of the fans selected by the club president to go on the trip.

He believes the team could go all the way and emerge victorious from the final, although the odds are stacked heavily against them.

"Our aim is to go back to Africa as champions," says Mr Katumbi, "and to enter the next [Club] World Cup."

"We have put TP Mazembe on the map and we are going to continue to remain on the map," decrees Mr Katumbi.

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