DR Congo team determined to ‘give joy’ to supporters as conflict scars countryTue, 06 Feb 2024 18:17:12 GMT

Democratic Republic of Congo coach Sebastien Desabre is hoping his team can use Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against Ivory Coast to “give joy” to people at home amidst ongoing violence in the volatile east of the country.”We want to make the people who are suffering proud of us as a national team,” Desabre told reporters in Abidjan on Tuesday, ahead of the last-four tie against the tournament hosts.”It is also our job to give joy to the people and give them something to smile about.”It will of course be a special game for us because it is a semi-final but also because it gives us a chance to show our affection and that we are thinking of all the people in Congo who are suffering.”At least 11 people were reportedly killed in raids in several villages in the Mambasa area of Ituri province, near the Ugandan border, on Monday, in the latest outbreak of violence in the region.The attacks were blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces, which is linked to the Islamic State group and is one of the deadliest militias in the strife-torn area. There has also been violence in adjoining Nord Kivu, around the provincial capital Goma, involving rebels from the M23 movement.The conflict has displaced millions of people in the east of the vast Central African country.On Monday, DR Congo striker Cedric Bakambu highlighted the violence in a post on X.”Everyone can see the massacres happening in the east of the Congo, but everyone stays silent,” Bakambu wrote.”Put the same energy that you put into talking about the AFCON in order to put the spotlight on what is happening in our country,” he appealed, while captain Chancel Mbemba also posted a call for peace on X on Monday.”A very big thought for all the victims of the atrocities in Goma and their families,” wrote the Marseille defender.”I pray with all my heart that my country regains peace.”- ‘Come a long way’ -The Leopards are in their first Cup of Nations semi-final since 2015, when they also faced Ivory Coast and lost 3-1.It has been quite a turnaround for the team under Frenchman Desabre, who took over in August 2022 after they had lost their opening two matches in qualifying for the tournament.”We have come a long way,” said Desabre.”We couldn’t accept the possibility of again being eliminated and missing another AFCON, even if the initial project was to do well at the 2025 tournament.”DR Congo qualified for the knockout phase despite drawing all three group games, and then beat Egypt on penalties in the last 16.They followed that by beating Guinea 3-1 in the quarter-finals.”We just want to get through to the final. We don’t want to hear anybody saying we have already done well enough getting to the semi-finals,” said Desabre.”We are competitors. We want to go to the final and we will do everything to get there.”