- Congolese union UFC was informed by two players that they were waiting months for their respective clubs to pay for operations
- It was only after intervention from the UFC that the clubs cooperated
- "It's worrying that some clubs in our top division are treating their players like this" says UFC President Herita Ilunga
Congolese player union UFC is urging directors of football clubs in DR Congo to take responsibility when their players are dealing with long-term injuries or require surgery.
Recently, the UFC was informed by two players that they were waiting months for their respective clubs to pay for much-needed operations. It was only after intervention from the UFC that the clubs cooperated.
In November 2022, AS Vita Club and DR Congo national team defender Gloire Nzungu ruptured his left Achilles tendon during training. When in hospital, doctors informed Nzungu that he required surgery to help him recover from the career-threatening injury.
The management of his club, however, at first refused to pay the USD 900 required for the operation. They also stopped paying Nzungu’s salary, even though the player had a contract until 2024. Consequently, Nzungu had difficulties with making ends meet.
In January, a delegation of the player union visited Nzungu to discuss his situation and provide him with financial support to assist his daily needs. After the visit, the UFC contacted the leadership of Vita Club, telling them to find a solution to Nzungu’s precarious situation.
In a statement made with the union, Nzungu at the time said: “Many people don't see me on the pitch anymore and some think I have left the country – but I am still here in Kinshasa. I have been injured now for a long period; I am in pain and in need of an operation.
“That is why I ask the leadership of Vita Club to look at my case and help me. I have a contract with Vita Club and therefore ask to be operated on so that I can get back to work. Otherwise, I am facing the end of my career. I have to take care of my family. There is no-one else who can help my family but me.”
After local media picked up on Nzungu’s cry for help, the club finally reacted. Vita Club arranged an operation which the player underwent in February, almost three months after picking up the injury on the club’s training pitch.
Now, Nzungu is recovering and has started receiving his salary again. He has not received any visit from the club’s management since he had the surgery.
Another club forced into fulfilling their obligations
Nzungu’s situation is not a solitary case in DR Congo, however. Exauce Mufuele from FC Renaissance has been suffering from a herniated disc for four months. The DR Congo U-23 player also requires surgery, but his club for months refused to pay USD 2,000 for the operation.
The UFC recorded a video statement with Mufuele, in which he asked his club to pay for the operation.
“I haven't played football for four months now,” said Mufuele. “I'm suffering from a hernia and I need an operation. The directors of my club are aware of the situation, but they're only asking me to wait. The hospital asked USD 2,000 for this operation, and I'm asking if there is anyone within the club who can help me, because I'm their player. I'm very worried.”
Only three weeks after his statement did FC Renaissance contact Mufuele and promise him they would pay for the operation. The UFC will closely follow the developments and the recovery of both players. At the same time, they want to make the clubs and the federation aware that professional footballers deserve better treatment.
“It is worrying that some clubs who are playing professional football in our top division are treating their players like this,” said UFC President Herita Ilunga “These players are workers and they have rights. The clubs, and also the federation (Fecofa) and the league (Linafoot), must take responsibility to protect the health of the players, and they should require professional clubs to provide health cover and impose this in a licensing system. It will not only benefit the players, but the game as well.”