/ 10 December 2009

Mazembe coach raises Club World Cup bar

French coach Diego Garzitto has raised the bar to a dizzy height for Democratic Republic of Congo club Tout Puissant Mazembe ahead of their Fifa Club World Cup debut.

The ‘Crows’ from the southern mining city of Lubumbashi face Pohang Steelers from South Korea in the United Arab Emirates city of Abu Dhabi Friday with a semifinals place at stake.

No African challenger has reached the final of the annual tournament which is being staged in the Middle East for the first time and Garzitto sees no reason why Mazembe cannot buck the trend.

”We hope to surpass the achievement of Egyptian club Al-Ahly, who finished third a few years ago,” the coach told reporters in Zimbabwe where the team prepared for the championship.

”My ambition is to play Spanish giants Barcelona in the final and if it is possible, win the competition,” said Garzitto, who last month led Mazembe to their first African Champions League title in 41 years.

”Anything can happen in football. Mazembe are a big team and I know that they can succeed at the highest level. Our captain Mabi Mputu is the best footballer based in Africa.

”There is also Dioko Kaluyituka, the leading scorer in the African Champions League this year with eight goals, and the ambition of the players is put on a good show at the Club World Cup.”

A member of the Champions League-winning team who will not face Steelers is Cameroonian defender Leopold Bagnack, who broke a leg last month when his car struck a wall in Lubumbashi.

Garzitto, who joined Mazembe at the beginning of this year and had spells as coach of Ethiopia and Togo, has included three foreign-born footballers in his 22-strong squad.

They are Congo Brazzaville defender Sita Milandu, Cameroon midfielder Amia Ekanga and Zambia striker Given Singuluma, leading scorer at the first African Nations Championship this year in Ivory Coast.

But BBC African Footballer of the Year finalist Mputu holds the key to success as Mazembe revolve around the 24-year-old, who is expected to join a European club next year.

Reportedly earning $20 000 a month, Mputu promised to stay with the ‘Crows’ until they conquered Africa and club officials accept that they will lose their most precious asset.

The winners meet Estudiantes of Argentina in the semifinals while Atlante of Mexico or Auckland City of New Zealand face Barcelona in the other half of the draw. — AFP