Marc-Vivien Foé Prize: and Chancel Mbemba conquered Marseille

At 28 years old, Chancel Mbemba, carried by a prediction of his aunt, has work as a priesthood. A viaticum that allowed him to impose himself at Olympique de Marseille and to be among the best defenders in Ligue 1.

Chancel Mbemba kisses the crest of the Marseille club after his first goal in Ligue 1. AFP - NICOLAS TUCAT

Text by: Ndiasse Sambe Follow


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From our special envoy in Marseille,

With Chancel Mbemba, the smile is an invitation, a promise of warm exchanges. But the OM defender is stingy in words, perhaps because he masters Lingala, his mother tongue, more than French. Regardless, he knows how to get his messages across, talk about himself and hammer home his convictions. The first, pegged to the body, is work. "That's why I'm here. Work values you, it is through work that everyone can see what you are capable of. The Congolese defender was quick to show what material he was made of for his first season in France and at a club as demanding as Olympique de Marseille. "A very good player, a very good recruit, the best. I don't think we could have found anything better," said an OM fan crossed in the streets of the port city.

Claude Le Roy: "He was multifunctional


The player, revealed by the Belgian club Anderlecht, landed on the Canebière escorted by four beautiful seasons in Porto, visa to enter and not a title for a long stay in the Phocaean city. But the native of Kinshasa has started well the first of his three years that link him to OM by being one of the major players of the club since the beginning of the season.

An intractable element on the right side of Croatian coach Igor Tudor's three-man defence, Mbemba showed Marseille everything that had seduced his former coach, Claude Le Roy, who had already spotted him at MK Étanchéité, a club in the second division of the Congolese championship. "He already had a great intelligence of play, a natural tactical sense, power, speed and especially a great technical quality for his position, recalls the former French coach of the DRC. He could play in central defense, on the side, in the middle. It was multifunctional." It was during this period that he earned one of his many nicknames: "Axis", like the deodorant, because he played in the axis and was "a clean defender".

>> Read also: Chancel Mbemba: "Winning the Marc-Vivien Foé prize was one of my goals"

It was on the rocky courts of his Mososo district (commune of Limete) that Chancel Mbemba, son of Antoinette, former Congolese basketball international, hit his first balls. He decides to succeed in football and make it a job the day his aunt, Sylvie, "who knows nothing about football", tells him a dream where she sees him playing in Europe. A "divine sign, a message of grace", says the young Chancel who owes his name to "luck". From then on, the one who had already started an apprenticeship in electricity devoted himself entirely to football. His motto, "work-palace" (work-home), was born.

ES La Grace, obviously, is his first club, will follow Mputu before revealing himself and being spotted at FC Waterproofing. Something rare in Congo, Mbemba will start the adventure abroad without going through the inevitable TP Mazembe and AS Vita Club. It was in Belgium, in Anderlecht, that he took his first steps in Europe, guided by the Senegalese "big brother" Cheikhou Kouyaté within the axis of the RSC's defense. The one who has as idol the former Belgian defender – of Congolese origin – Vincent Kompany, will take off after two full seasons in Belgium, to land in the Premier League at Newcastle. Before, he has time to earn a new nickname, the most official among Congolese supporters: "demi-dieu".

« He has respect for the club and the supporters. »

The first season with the English club is complete (35 games). Then comes the galley. Newcastle were relegated to the Championship in the 2015–2016 season, but the Congolese defender helped the club recover immediately. Back in the Premier League and new disappointment, Chancel Mbemba, after playing the first seven days of the league as a starter, is sent back definitively to the stands by his Spanish coach, Rafael Benitez. "So far, I don't know the reasons," Mbemba said today. He didn't even put me on the bench, it was a direct stand. That's how my life is," he says with a fatalistic laugh.

It is therefore in Porto, at the Dragons, that Hercules will be reborn (another nickname), composing with the Portuguese defender Pepe an almost impregnable hinge. Four years and a well-stocked bag of trophies: two league titles, two Portuguese Cups and two Portuguese Super Cups.

Today, it is on the Canebière that the Congolese international with 68 selections flourishes to the delight of Marseille supporters. So here he is on the side of the Old Port, now adopted by Marseille fans. "He's strong!" exclaims the young Hugo. "It brought stability," adds Mathieu, in his forties. After that, I don't see him in the dressing room, but I think he's someone you can lean on.



He has respect for the club and the fans. Several times, he stopped here, testifies a supporter at the exit of the Commanderie, the training center of OM. We find it very good and we would like it to stay a little longer with us. She can be reassured, the story between Mbemba and OM has only just begun.

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