Ibenge confirms he will leave his post as DR Congo coach in 2018

Florent Ibenge
Florent Ibenge has combined roles as DR Congo's national team coach and AS Vita Club coach since 2014

The Democratic Republic of Congo coach, Florent Ibenge, said he would leave his post with the national team in 2018 and praised the current crop of players saying he hoped more would turn out for the world's top clubs in the future.

Ibenge, who is also coach of DR Congo side AS Vita Club, was speaking from The Gambia ahead of Sunday's African Champions League match between Vita Club and Ports Authority.

The 55-year-old has combined both roles since 2014 and says he needs a new challenge.

"My contract ends after the World Cup, so, I want to do things with my family and I don't have to continue with the national team - I want to do something else," Ibenge told BBC Sport.

"I've been here for three years already, so I think that by the end of my contract it will be four years. It's enough. And I think someone else can take this team and go further" Ibenge added.

As he prepared for the first leg of AS Vita Club's African Champions League last 32-tie, Ibenge admitted that combining two roles - for club and country - had been challenging.

"It's really difficult because when you have the national team, you're supposed to be on the move, to meet all the players, to attend a lot of matches. But when you are with a club, you can't travel. You have to stay for training. So it's really difficult to do both. And I'm also tired" said Ibenge.

During his three years with The Leopards, Ibenge took the national team to a third place finish at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

In 2016 he helped DR Congo become champions of the CHAN - the tournament which is only open to footballers who play in their own local leagues.

Most recently Ibenge guided the national side to a quarter-final place at the Nations Cup in Gabon where they lost to Ghana.

The DR Congo coach says he will leave the team in a healthy state with the likes of Everton star Yannick Bolasie in the ranks alongside fellow English Premier League players Dieumerci Mbokani of Hull and Bournemouth's Benik Afobe.

Yannick Bolasie
Injured Everton star, Yannick Bolasie, is one of a handful of DR Congo players to feature in the English Premier League.

But Ibenge wants more Congolese footballers to progress at club level and show ambition in the future.

"We have a lot of players, young players, and what I hope is that firstly we qualify for Russia 2018, but the other thing I want is for Congolese players to play for the best teams in the world.

"At the moment, a lot of players play in the second division. And I want them to play in the first division and for big teams like Manchester City or Manchester United, or Bayern Munich, or Real Madrid or Barcelona.

"We don't have these kinds of players. And I hope in the future we can have top players who can play in these teams. I'd be proud to see all these players playing for these teams."

Florent Ibenge says he is targeting a World Cup campaign in Russia with The Leopards, and as things stand, their chances of finishing as Group A winners and thereby bagging one of the five African spots, remain strong.

"We've played two matches, we have six points. The same points as Tunisia. And at the end of August and beginning of September, we'll play against Tunisia.

"We are really concentrating on being there [the 2018 World Cup], because the last time we reached this level, it was in 1974. It's been too long for our Congolese people - so we really want to be in Russia."

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