Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THEY call him the ultimate beast, Nyamamabe in their Congolese language, the Devil of Death they unleash as their last line of defence where they need a mystical powerful helping hand. Some even call him 666, the number associated with the seven-headed beast that represents the Devil in the book of Revelations, which will appear in the post-apocalyptic world when the circle of humanity comes to an end.
Fittingly, he represents a team called Red Devils, a coalition made in hell, ready to unleash its fury on us on March 24, to shatter our 2019 AFCON dreams.
Well, the beast is in town, having arrived last weekend and, on Sunday, he was at the National Sports Stadium doing what they claim he knows best — preparing a stage for his Red Devils to triumph.
Using his so-called magical powers to convert our giant football shrine and turn into hostile territory for our Warriors, to somehow ensure Knowledge Musona and company lose their radar and our goalkeeper fumbles a ball into his goal.
Like what some claim happened to the late John Sibanda when these Red Devils were last here in 1991. They have firm beliefs in such dark arts in that part of the continent. The original Nyamamabe, they say, was the father of the one who is in town today.
He was so feared, so powerful, and was there in their corner when they were crowned African champions, for the only time in their history, back in 1972.
His story, how his country turned to him during that tournament in Cameroon, makes fascinating reading to both believers and non-believers alike.
The Red Devils had picked just one point in their first two games in Group B, a 1-1 draw against Morocco, and a 0-2 defeat to neighbours DRC, leaving them in danger of elimination.
Someone then turned to the original Nyamamabe, for a helping hand, for the team and legend has it he told them to believe in the number of letters that make the name of their country (five).
Well, in an incredible 22 minutes of their final decisive match against Sudan, between the 32nd and 55th minutes, five goals, including three for their Red Devils, were scored.
By the end of the battle, the Congolese won 4-2, somehow scoring four goals, in the first 55 minutes of the match against a plucky Sudanese team whose defence had conceded only two, in previous group matches, against DRC and Morocco.
That goal harvest ensured they finished with a superior record to Morocco, after both teams ended with three points, with the Congolese joining neighbours DRC, who topped the group, in the semi-finals.
Hosts Cameroon fell 0-1 in the semi-final in Yaoundé and in the final they came from a goal down to defeat Mali 3-2 and win their only AFCON title.
The original Nyamamabe was also in their corner, according to the claims, at the AFCON finals two years later in Egypt in 1974 and, again, told them to believe in the power of the numbers of their country’s name (five).
And, as if on cue, they scored five goals — beating Mauritius 2-0, beating eventual winners DRC 2-1 and drawing 1-1 against Guinea — as they topped their group to qualify for the semi-finals for the second tournament in a row.
Then, according to some, things fell apart between the two parties.
And, the original Nyamamabe is said to have told the Red Devils this was the beginning of the end of their AFCON success stories and, while the number five had featured prominently during their glorious partnership, the number four would now be associated with their failure.
In the next match, the semi-final of the 1974 AFCON tournament, the Congolese conceded four goals in their 2-4 loss to Zambia, after extra-time.
They then leaked another four goals, in a third-place play-off against the Pharaohs of Egypt, letting in eight goals in two matches after having conceded just two goals, in three group games, earlier in that tourney.
A team that had won the Nations Cup in ’72 and reached the semi-finals in ’74, failed to qualify for the ’76 AFCON finals, lost in the group stages in ’78, failed to make it to the finals in ’80, ’82, ’84, ’86, ’88, didn’t event enter in ’90, failed to qualify in ’94, ’96, ’98, 2002, 2004, 2006. 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
The authorities had to swallow their pride and, in the 2015 AFCON qualifiers, it’s said, they turned to the son of the original Nyamamabe.
The one who sneaked into town last weekend and Congo returned to the Nations Cup finals, scored four goals as they topped their group to reach the quarter-finals.
In that match, they even took a 2-0 lead but he DRC fought back to score four times in the last 25 minutes and win that match 4-2.
Six goals in that match, six goals (four for them and two against) in their AFCON 2015 group, six goals in their loss to Zambia in that semi-final, that makes 666, doesn’t it?
And, when they read in the Book of Revelations they are told the Beast will act for 42 days, and they think about the dominance of the numbers (4) and (2) in their results and they tend to believe in their Nyamamabe.
Now, he has set his sights on us.
‘’We know he is here, we are aware of his activities,’’ said Warriors team manager, Wellington Mpandare. ‘
’But, we are not worried, we have faith in our God and we are praying Warriors.
‘’Our God has taken us this far, He was with us in Brazzaville, and if these people are powerful, then we would not have got a point there.’’
You got to love African football.