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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.

Mwepu Ilunga
Personal information
Full name Joseph Mwepu Ilunga
Date of birth (1949-08-22)22 August 1949
Place of birth Belgian Congo
Date of death 8 May 2015(2015-05-08) (aged 65)
Place of death Kinshasa, DR Congo
Playing position Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
TP Mazembe
National team
1971–1975 Zaïre[1] 21 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only


Club careerEdit

He played club football for Englebert TP Mazembe in his native Zaire,[2] with whom he won the 1967 African Cup of Champions and 1968 African Cup of Champions.[3]

International careerEdit

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.[4] He was subsequently cautioned, but some commentators felt that he seemed oblivious as to what he had done wrong.[5]

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.[6] Zaire went on to lose that match 3–0.[7] 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.[8] "Most of the Brazilian players and the crowd thought it was all hilarious, an amateur act. I could only shout 'you bastards!' to all of them, because nobody there knew the pressure we were under".[9]


Ilunga died in May 2015 after a long illness[10] in the Saint-Joseph de Limete Hospital, Kinshasa.[3]


  1. ^ Appearances for Congo-Kinshasa National Team
  2. ^ Zaïre's World Cup squad 1974 - Planet World Cup
  3. ^ a b Foot: l’ancien Léopard Joseph Ilunga Mwepu décédé à l’âge de 66 ans - Radio Okapi (in French)
  4. ^ "Top 50 football moments". Archived from the original on December 11, 2006. Retrieved 2008-03-12.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) (Accessed June 10, 2006)
  5. ^ "The most extreme case of a professional footballer's ignorance of the game's most basic rules". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2006.
  6. ^ "BBC Sport - Football - Zaire free-kick farce explained". BBC News. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  7. ^ Official FIFA match report Archived 2006-11-10 at the Wayback Machine (Accessed June 10, 2006)
  8. ^ BBC Sport - "1974: Zaire's show of shame" (Accessed June 10, 2006)
  9. ^ "Famosos por 15 minutos", FourFourTwo, número 3, janeiro de 2009, Editora Cádiz, págs. 62-65
  10. ^ "Former Zaire defender Mwepu Ilunga dies aged 66 after long illness". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 May 2015.

External linksEdit