The Podcast Club: We Came to Win looks at Zaire’s rise and fall

The third instalment of The Podcast Club is upon us and we feature We Came to Win – a podcast examining issues and stories related to the World Cup tournament – and their episode on Zaire’s 1974 World Cup squad.

Not seen The Podcast Club before? Think of it like a book club, but for podcasts. We feature a different podcast and different members of our team will listen and give their view. Last up was Nessun Dorma’s look back at Manchester United’s 1992-1993 success.

We also want your view. So listen with us and let us know in the comments or on social media what you think.

At risk of sounding like a patronising Englishman, I feared the worst when the Zaire 1974 episode of the We Came To Win began with an explanation of what a free kick is. Don’t get me wrong – making football and especially football history – accessible to those who have not yet seen the light is great – but I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to listen to 45 minutes’ worth of podcast aimed at a football (or soccer) newbie.

I needn’t have worried! The following 45 minutes were a fascinating in-depth look at the build-up to Joseph Mwepu Ilunga’s at-first-glance-farcical hoof of Brazil’s free kick.

There has of course always been a connection between politics and sport, particularly with dictators using sport’s popularity for their own ends. But this story is lesser known than others (arguably it is not even the best-known of Joseph Mobutu’s examples, the Rumble in the Jungle being more widely remembered), and deserves its own focus. It certainly gets it here, with a wide range of interviewees who were closely associated with the incident – including Ilunga’s team-mates and his son – giving their insight on his infamous action and why he did it. A fascinating listen and well worth seeking out.

Jeremy Smith

This wonderful deep dive into Zaire’s 1974 World Cup campaign really drives home the immense effort required to shine a spotlight on some of football’s most interesting stories. This is especially true of the ‘pre-internet’ era of the sport where teams outside of Europe and South America rarely garnered the attention of Western media and primary sources in English are thin. Nando Vila and his incredibly talented team do a great job of taking us behind that infamous free kick, with surprising insights and superb production. This is what all narrative football podcasts should aspire to be.

Dan Orlowitz

It’s one of the most iconic moments in World Cup history, albeit perhaps for the wrong reasons. The bizzare antics of the Zaire player who broke from the wall, ran toward the Brazilians and hoofed the ball up field painted the site into World Cup folklore forever, but also painted a picture of ineptness and naivety for the World Cup first-timers. We Came To Win makes you forget all of that, though. It paints a detailed picture of exactly what happened that day and goes further in-depth to the connection between politics and sport. From dictators using sport for their own gain to THAT free-kick, We Came To Win is the perfect taste of World Cup fever.

Scott Salter

‘We Came to Win’ is a fascinating deep-dive into infamous (and rightly famous) World Cup storylines that entrance the listener. The episode on Zaire’s 1974 appearance at the World Cup examines the casual racism of commentators, politics and human nature. I won’t lie, it’s weird to hear a break down of how a free kick (and a penalty) work, but the resulting podcast is a fascinating look into how politicians attempt to use sport for their own success, and will abandon those same athletes when it suits them.

Featuring interviews from Joseph Mwepu Ilunga’s son and teammates, it’s incredible insight into how a farcical free kick interuption was actually a subtle form of protest against the dictator back in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). It won’t make you feel happy with the outcome, or how they were treated, but it puts the players’ actions into context and shines a light on their overlooked success.

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