As the captain of TP Mazembe, Joel Kimwaki is not accustomed to losing. The fact that victory has become a habit for the African club is something the towering defender learned quickly upon his arrival in 2010.
The consistent level of success he has experienced since then runs counter to the comprehensive nature of the 3-0 defeat he and his team-mates suffered at the hands of Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2015.
“These things happen. Losing is part of the game,” he said calmly and lucidly. “We were a little careless. And yet our coach had stressed two key points before the match: we were to stay focused and pay attention. But we didn’t manage to do either of those things.”
It was certainly a fair summary by the tough-tackling centre-back. The first two Sanfrecce goals both stemmed from corners where the Congolese side’s marking left a lot to be desired, with the second one conceded by goalkeeper Richard Boateng demonstrating a particular lack of defensive pressure.
We’re not going to let our heads go down, because the tournament isn’t finished yet and everyone needs to get ready to finish with a top-notch performance.
Joel Kimwaki, TP Mazembe captain
The third goal, which came from a counter-attack, only served to confirm that Mazembe had suffered a rather bad day at the office.
The result was difficult to accept for Kimwaki in particular, who was part of the team that made history by reaching the final in 2010. Paradoxically, that feat – a first for a club from outside Europe or South America – may have played a role in the Africans’ undoing, such was the high level of expectation among their loyal support.
Patience and preparation
“Of course, everyone back home remembers our run in 2010 and hoped to see a repeat,” explained Kimwaki.
“But we didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves. People have to accept that those are two different teams from different eras.
We’ve just won the African Champions League, but we’ve got new players who are experiencing this tournament for the first time, and are not used to the demands of a global competition. We’ve already had some success, but not enough to step up to the next level,” he continued.
“There’s no margin for error; we can’t end up last. We’re here to finish in the top five. We’re not going to let our heads go down, because the tournament isn’t finished yet and everyone needs to get ready to finish with a top-notch performance.”
A model professional, the 29-year-old, who was part of the Congo DR squad that finished third at the 2015 CAF Africa Cup of Nations and who recently won the CAF Champions League for the second time, has the necessary experience and common sense to step back and judge his and his team’s general performances without dwelling on one bad result.
“We’ve achieved some great things this year, and it’s important to bear that in mind,” he said. “I’ve performed well all season and I need to maintain that form. I’m still ready to serve Mazembe and my national team.”
The Kinshasa native, who is the only Congo DR representative in Mazembe coach Patrice Carteron’s starting XI, was also recently appointed captain of said national team. “That came down to my hard work and discipline,” he said. And while those two ingredients may have been lacking in the club’s loss to Sanfrecce, Kimwaki’s leadership qualities should ensure that they come bouncing back in style.