DR Congo’s striker Dieumerci Mbokani has announced he is quitting international football after he was criticised for not flying out to join the Congo squad after narrowly escaping last month’s Brussels bombings.
Mbokani was at the city’s Zaventem Airport at the time of the explosions and decided to return home to be with his family rather than try to find an alternative route to join his international team-mates for their Africa Nations Cup qualifier double-header against Angola.
The Red Devils still won 4-1 on aggregate despite his absence, but that did not stop the president of Congo’s FA Constant Omari from expressing his anger at Mbokani’s no-show, combining it with an implied threat of further punishment.
However, Mbokani took to a radio station in his native country to outline a very different set of events which he believes puts the record straight.
“I was at Brussels airport at the time of the attacks,” he said. “Immediately after, I called the vice-president Theo Binamungu and he promised to call me.
“Since that day, no one called me. Not even a message of support and encouragement from what happened to me.
“Then I stayed in Brussels with my family that I almost lost in the attacks. I asked my team to give me a few days of rest, time for me to recover from the trauma.
“Someone from the Congolese tried to make me travel to Kinshasa. I always have problems with the Federation. That’s the reason why I decided to stop with the national team.
“I do not want to play for Congo. I find the treatment unfair. Therefore, after discussion with my family, my relatives, I decided to stop.”
Mbokani was understandably emotional after crediting his wife for keeping him alive when two bombs were detonated at the airport, killing 14 people, as part of a wider attack on the city on March 22.
“We were on the pavement outside the building,” he recalled shortly afterwards. “I was near the taxi rank, my wife was near the buses, some feet from the explosion. If we had entered a minute earlier, we would be dead.
“It was my wife who saved our lives. I wanted to get into the terminal earlier but she said, ‘Let’s wait for my cousin’, who was taking the same flight. She told me he was coming in a minute or two. It is a miracle.
“When the attack happened, I was sitting down, and then I ran to my wife and fled to the Sheraton [hotel] and then to the parking lot. I left my seven suitcases where they were.”
The 30-year-old said at the time he was prepared to head out for the games, but in the absence of any more contact from the federation he instead continued preparations for Norwich’s Premier League survival campaign.
Subsequently, he was described by club manager Alex Neil as a “special player” after he scored the second goal in the vital 3-2 over fellow strugglers Newcastle at the weekend, giving the Canaries a timely boost to lift them four points above the drop zone, although third-bottom Sunderland have a game in hand.
It was his fifth goal in 24 Premier League games since making a loan move from Dinamo Kiev at the end of August having been described at the turn of the year by Neil as a “monster” after he scored against Aston Villa.