It was with two other local seasoned players Dirang Moloi and Jerome Ramathakwane that Phenyo Mongala signed a five-year contract with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Cercle Spotif Don Bosco last year. Local soccer observers were happy for the trio, taking it as the best move for their professional soccer careers. Little did they know that it will turn out to be a nightmare that will threaten their careers regardless of the exquisite skills that they have.
Mongala disclosed this week that signing up for the DRC team stands out as the worst mistake of his career. “Even though the move seemed like a wise one in the beginning, I realised that it was not. When we were signing the contracts we knew we were going to retire there because we thought it will be all good. It was nice and exciting for us,” Mongala recalled.
They did not even enquire prior to their departure for DRC about how the conditions on the ground there were. Mongala believed that he had seen it all and therefore was prepared to dive in irrespective of any challenge. How wrong he was. After their first debut league game with TP Mazembe Mongala realised that things would not be as easy as he had presumed.
“We struggled with health matters and the agreement terms between us and the team were not met. We got our salaries late and it was very frustrating for me because even the environment was not safe to live in. So with all these frustrations about the instability of DRC and the frustrations from the team, it became unbearable for me,” he added.
Mongala said he does not blame anyone for how things have turned out to be even though this has affected his football career immensely. Mongala was not coping at all; from extra heavy training and going on for days without a shower and not eating well.
“I stayed there for eight months because I was trying to focus, hoping things will change and also putting into consideration that I was there to play football, but the living conditions there made it hard for me to do what I know I am good at.”
Before they decided to return to Botswana they raised many complaints regarding their livelihoods and even their well-being in terms of security, but the answer that they always got was that, ‘this is DRC and this is how it is so there is nothing that we can do if there is no electricity or water’.
Mongala said this is most challenging moment of his career, and all that he wishes for is to be able to play football again since it is what he loves and what he knows he is good at. “I just hope the matter will be resolved fast because football is where I belong. I am not allowed to be part of any team here until the matter is resolved and I can’t train with any either, but I do the training on my own because I want to play again.” Mongala is seeking to be released from their current contract with the DRC side.
Mongala has once been through another career threatening ordeal after signing with South African giants Orlando Pirates in 2010 who side-lined him for most of the season without him getting playtime.
He represents a free lesson on what not to do as a professional player – not to follow the appeal of a big pay cheque at the ultimate cost to their playing career. Mongala said he was regretful that just one moment of signing the contract knocked down his game. If things had gone well in DRC, Mongala would have been there until 2018. Botswana Footballers Union is handling Mongala’s matter. He can not wait to have the matter brought to conclusion to put back on his soccer boots and begin earning a living again from his passion.