x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Mazembe's Kitengie wants changes to Club World Cup

The sports manager of the African champions wants eight teams in the tournament as the current format favours European and South American sides.

TP Mazembe’s Kilitcho Kasusula celebrates after scoring against Auckland City at last year’s Club World Cup. The team from the Democratic Republic of Congo will be Africa’s representative this year, too.
TP Mazembe’s Kilitcho Kasusula celebrates after scoring against Auckland City at last year’s Club World Cup. The team from the Democratic Republic of Congo will be Africa’s representative this year, too.

Frederic Kitengie looks forward to changes in the Fifa Club World Cup. In the short term he hopes and expects the team he serves as sport manager, the African champions TP Mazembe, will enjoy a more successful stay in Abu Dhabi this year than last.

Long term, his ambitions are more grand: to see the overhaul of the tournament.

Kitengie wants an end to the placement of the European and South American champions directly into the semi-finals of the seven-team event. "Why is it that Europe and South America can play one match and be in the final? No other tournament in the world is constructed in this way," he said. "All other teams must play extra games, and why is this?"

He would prefer eight clubs divided into two groups, with each team playing three group-stage games with the top two in each group advancing to the semi-finals.

"Let everyone play a similar number of games, and then we will see who is good," he said. "How can we decide champions when they play only two games?"

Kitengie was in Abu Dhabi recently to prepare for his team's arrival at the 2010 tournament, which begins on December 8.

Mazembe's opening match is December 10, against the Mexican side Pachuca, the champions of North America.

Speaking in both French and English while revisiting Zayed Sports City, Kitengie acknowledged that only teams from Europe and South America have played in the Club World Cup final, but he said the onus should not be on the champions of other continents to prove they can make the final. Not when they must play at least one extra match to get there.

Asked who should be the eighth team in a two-rounds-of-four tournament, he said, "Fifa is to solve this problem; it is not mine", but showed enthusiasm when a translator suggested the defending champions be invited back to be the eighth team.

He said the World Cup had already shown that African teams can defeat the powers of Europe and South America, citing matches including Morocco's win over Italy in 1970 and Cameroon over holders Argentina in 1990.

Alex Stone, a Fifa spokesman, said the Club World Cup schedule is designed, in part, to keep European and South American sides from missing two weekends of their domestic league seasons. Mazembe, a club based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, lost both of their games in the 2009 Club World Cup, 2-1 to South Korea's Pohang Steelers, the champions of Asia; and 3-2 to Auckland City, an amateur side from New Zealand and champions of Oceania.

Kitengie said the results were undeserved. "Anyone who saw these games knows that Mazembe played much better than the other sides," he said. "We were dominant in both of these matches."

He said his side are stronger this year despite the loss through Fifa suspension of their captain Tresor Mputu, sidelined for a year for trying to attack a referee.

"We have many strong players," he said. "We will be ready. The ball is round; let it roll."

poberjuerge@thenational.ae