Ilunga reveals Zaire issues in 1974
Mwepu Ilunga has told L'Equipe that Zaire's dismal performance at the 1974 World Cup was influenced by a dispute over bonuses and said of his infamous free kick: "I wanted a red card."
The second African side to qualify for a World Cup, Zaire -- now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- endured a nightmare campaign.
They lost to Scotland, Yugoslavia and Brazil and Ilunga, now 64, made headlines for getting cautioned after kicking the ball away when Brazil were preparing to take a free kick.
First Ghana and now Nigeria are said to be involved in quarrels over bonuses at this year's tournament but it appears that it is not a modern-day problem.
Having lost 2-0 but been happy with their performance against Scotland, Ilunga says the mood of the Zaire players changed when they discovered that a bonus owed to them had been intercepted.
He blames those close to the authoritarian regime of Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko.
"We were really unhappy," he told the French newspaper. "We had just spent two months far from our families, without anyone by our side. There weren't the same forms of communication as there are today. And they take our money? You don't do that."
Ilunga says the players decided that they would not take to the field for their second game against Yugoslavia.
"Two hours before kick-off, we still didn't want to play. Then there were threats. We were told to play, otherwise we'd be sent to a dungeon, so we went on to the pitch but we sabotaged the match. A bit like a strike. That's why we lost 9-0."
Ilunga says Mobutu sent them a message, telling the players that if they lost by more than five goals against Brazil they would never be allowed to return to their homes.
In the 78th minute, Ilunga stepped out of a defensive wall and booted the ball away before Brazil could take a free kick.
He said he was "annoyed" by provocative remarks the Brazilian players had made but added: "At the same time, it was also an opportunity that I took to provoke the referee. I wanted him to give me a red card.
"I said to myself: 'I'm not playing anymore. Why would I stay on the field and take the risk of not returning home when the others -- the people who took our money -- are watching us peacefully from the stands?"
Ilunga says they were not given much support by Mobutu and his supporters after the World Cup. Forty years on, he maintains that they are still waiting for the money that they are owed.