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Ilombe Mboyo's long road to an international call-up

Striker is in Belgium's squad for first time

icon playermove10 October ~ On Monday, Gent striker Ilombe "Petit Pelé" Mboyo thought he was the victim of a practical joke. He was told that he'd been called up to the Belgium national squad to face Serbia and Scotland following the withdrawal of Romelu Lukaku. But it was true, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said he'd gone for Mboyo as he was a good target man and sufficiently mobile to play against the pressure expected to come from the Serbia defenders. Not that he's certain to play, as the less mobile but bigger Christian Benteke is likely to get the nod.

It's been a remarkable journey to international football for Mboyo. As a teenager, he played in Anderlecht youth squads with Vincent Kompany, Anthony Vanden Borre and his own cousin, Geoffrey Mujangi Bia. According to Kompany, Mboyo stood out in the group as "a rare pearl". Kompany has gone on to greater things, while Vanden Borre and Mujangi Bia have both flirted with the Premier League. Mboyo took a different route. Leaving Anderlecht in his mid-teens to join Club Brugge, he took a few wrong turns and eventually received a three-year prison sentence.

For a time he was uncontrollable but Mboyo met a counsellor who turned him around. His thoughts turned back to football and he got a transfer to Belgium's most modern prison at Ittre which, in those days, benefited from a rehabilitation programme called Football in Prison. Through that Mboyo met Sporting Charleroi scout Pierre Bodenghien. A deal was brokered with Charleroi's management and the prison authorities for Mboyo to train and play with the reserve team while he finished his sentence.

He was later incorporated into Charleroi's first-team squad, coached by Scottish international John Collins. Initially Mboyo made a big impression but his next season was less successful at a club that changed coaches regularly. In May 2010 he went to Kortrijk on loan and played under Hein Vanhaezebrouck, who was working wonders with a small budget. The loan was made permanent in September 2010 and Mboyo scored six goals and made five more in the first half of the season.

Gent spotted the him and another deal was done. Though Mboyo has not been that prolific since joining his new club, he is now seen as their main striker and seems to appreciate Trond Sollied's light touch as a coach. With Belgians being fashionable at the moment, don't bet against him joining his friends in the Premier League. John Chapman

On the subject...

Comment on 12-10-2012 15:05:43 by Borracho #719672
"Mboyo took a different route. Leaving Anderlecht in his mid-teens to join Club Brugge, he took a few wrong turns and eventually received a three-year prison sentence."

"A few wrong turns"? He participated in a gang-rape of a 14-year-old girl FFS.

Why did John Chapman feel this particular detail wasn't worth including.
Comment on 12-10-2012 15:06:09 by Borracho #719673
Sorry, my last sentence should have a question mark on the end rather than a full stop.
Comment on 12-10-2012 15:39:56 by jimmya28 #719691
Can only support AB2's comment - whilst all prisoners should have an opportunity to be rehabilitated, and in some way's Mboyo's 'journey' should be applauded, the nature of the offence he committed is quite sickening.

Certainly puts the disciplinary travails of some Premier League footballers into some context. Was there a particular reason you didn't provide this context, John?
Comment on 13-10-2012 12:38:33 by Dalef65 #720145
Whilst i dont usually agree with the "He Should Never Be Allowed Back into The Game" mentality that you get when footballers commit crimes...........
..In this case it would be entirely justified if he were banished forever...

And whatever we think about rehabilitation,it is surprising that he only got three years for this particular offence.

So over to you author...
Why didnt you mention what he actually did...???????
Comment on 13-10-2012 21:14:44 by john chapman #720251
I'd just like to say that this John Chapman isn't me, even if the WSC archive seems confused on the point. I write about Boston United, he writes about Belgian football.

And for what its worth I'd have mentioned what Mboyo did
Comment on 16-10-2012 11:46:04 by brodes #720984
Completely agree with AB2. Surely the crime he committed should have been mentioned. I'm all for rehabilitation, and whether he should still be able to play or not is another argument, but the reader should know the full facts.
Comment on 24-01-2013 11:46:20 by mistajohn #754649
First up, apologies for not responding sooner. I don't often check out the WSC pages. Regarding the Mboyo piece, I first wrote it three years ago ( on my blog. The focus was on the story of someone who had served a prison sentence and then became a professional footballer because of the 'football in prison' programme. Now no longer funded. When he was called up for the national team, I thought this was worthy of mention again and WSC agreed to put it in the website. I did not mention the nature of the crime because I did not know it at the time. Should I have checked? Possibly, but my interest was in the rehabilitation rather than in the crime itself. He was a teenager without a job when the horrendous crime was committed. Should he therefore have been banned from any paid work or just professional football? So, to sum up, had I known about the rape, I like to think I would still have written the piece with the same conclusion. Otherwise, what is prison for?

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