It’s always special when footballing gifts pass on from one generation of a family to the next, as is the case with the Bokilas.
In 1980 Ndingi Bokila joined Belgian club Harelbeke, beginning a remarkable spell. The Congo DR star would finish as the team's top scorer for the next three seasons in a row, an accomplishment which earned him the name "the pearl of Harelbeke".
"My father is something of a football legend in my country so he doesn't need my introduction,” Jeremy Bokila told FIFA.com. “But I want to talk about him as a father. For me, he has taught me invaluable things in both football and life. From him I have learnt what sort of person I should become, what is right or wrong. He’s helped me become what I am today."
Jeremy’s two siblings also play football, albeit at amateur level. "Football is in the blood of the family," he said. “When our family reunites, it remains the centre. We talk about football and we play together. I feel that I have inherited my father's gifts and I hope I will pass this down to my own children."
Father and mentor
Born in Congo DR, Jeremy moved with the family to the Netherlands when he was nine years old. "In Congo I played football with kids in the streets. I started serious training after settling in Netherlands," he said reflecting on his early years.
"When I was signed and left home for Apeldoorn as a teenager, my father provided me with a lot of support. It was an important period for my development. He asked me to be self-disciplined. He urged me to focus on training. He may have been strict with a youngster like me but looking back, I’m very grateful for what he has done for me."
As Jeremy made progress with club and country his father’s advice continued to be valuable. "Usually before a key match, I speak to my father on phone," he revealed. "He offers advice on how to prepare, how to play and what tactics and techniques I should employ."
Dreams to realise
Jeremy has maintained an impressive goal-scoring rate since first representing the national team three years ago, managing eight goals from 12 international appearances. Notably, he netted the late equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Tunisia which sealed The Leopards' progression to the knockout stage of the 2015 African Cup of Nations.
In the quarter-finals Jeremy was once again on target and his team enjoyed a 4-2 victory over neighbours Congo to secure a place in the final four. "My father often told me to cherish my chance to play for the national team,” said the young Bokila.
“I still remember his words: 'Jeremy, it is the top honour for every player to play for the national team. When you receive the national call-up, you should try your best to help the team. Your playing time is limited and the lost chance can hardly be found again'."
Congo DR begin their qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ next month with a two-legged meeting with Burundi. For the country, it is a chance to end their 41-year wait for a return to the World Cup stage. The nation's only taste of the global showpiece came at Germany 1974 when they were known as Zaire.
"When we watched the World Cup in Brazil together,” Jeremy recalls, “my father told me: 'look, this is the competition every player should dream about. Our country should be there. This Congo squad is a hopeful generation and you guys should work hard to make it’.”