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Monday Morning Image #3

The bizarre side of world football - Brazil v Zaire - Gelsenkirchen 1974....

Brazil, already 3-0 up, line up a free-kick against Zaire in Gelsenkirchen at the 1974 WC Finals. Moments later and before Brazil took the kick, Zairean defender Mwepu Ilunga broke from the wall and punted the dead ball as far as he could down the field. Brazilians pictured (L-R) are... Jairzinho, Paulo Cesar Carpegiani, Rivelino and Francisco Marinho. For Zaire; Bwanga Tshimen (4), Kibonge Mafu (15) and Lobilo Boba (5).

One of the most bizarre incidents in World Cup history occurred just moments after this photograph was taken.

It had many viewers in stitches, but it was really no laughing matter for the players in the Zaire team.

With Zaire having already lost group games to Scotland (0-2) and Yugoslavia (0-9), President Mobuto, up until the finals a committed backer of the national football team, saw the results as national humiliation.

He ordered several of his national bodyguards onto a plane bound for Germany to go threaten the players in the national team. The message carried across was that if the team lost by more than three goals to Brazil, they would not be permitted re-entry to the country (under such circumstances that might not have been a bad thing).

So with Brazil 3-up and around ten minutes to play, the players are starting to panic, if not fear for their lives.

It was then the bizarre moment happened.

Before Brazil could take the free-kick, Mwepu Ilunga raced from the wall and booted the ball as far as he could down the opposite end of the field, with the intention to run down the clock.

Maybe it worked. Ilunga incurred only a yellow card for his troubles, and Brazil didn’t score again.

On a side-note to the story, one of the squad, Ekofa Mbungu was still working as a taxi driver in 2010, using the very same Volkswagen that he had been given by Mobuto way back in 1974 (upon WC qualification the dictator had rewarded each member of the squad with a Volkswagen car).

For his part Mobuto quickly lost interest in football and withdrew funding leading to the collapse of the national side, instead preferring to focus attention on boxing.

Shortly after, October 1974 in fact, Kinshasa, the Zairean capital hosted the biggest boxing bout in the world. Zaire paid huge money to host The Rumble in the Jungle between World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman and challenger, Muhammed Ali.

Mobutu fled Zaire twenty-three years later in 1997 amidst economic crisis and died the same year in exile.

As for the stadium in the picture the Parkstadion, it was home to Schalke 04 from 1973, when it was built for the World Cup until 2001, when demolition began.

It hosted a total of 5 WC finals games in 1974 and 2 games in the 1988 Euros.

Other notable performers to grace the old arena before its demise were, Michale Jackson, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.