Young handsome and athletic, Joël Kiassumbua has everything to be happy in life. The goalkeeper of Servette FC in Switzerland has even won the U17 World Cup in 2009 with the Swiss selection.
However the young ephebe went to meet new challenges since he responded to the calling of the DRC selection, which he did not know much about before activating the valuable dual nationality inherited from his father.
As the only goalkeeper with congolese passport to evolve in a professional league in Europe, the 6’3” dude, has established himself as the legitimate heir of Robert Kidiaba when he latter international retirement. The fate of a nation of 80 million souls is in his gloves. He reviewed with us this return to homeland.
Beside soccer what do you like?
I love spending time with my family. Grew up in a christian family. I am Protestant and a member of a free church. My relationship with God is very intense. I pray every day and
I read the Bible.
Are you married? Any Children?
For the moment I am still single and I do not have children.
Where does this passion for soccer come from?
I have clearly inherited from my father who also played football in the Congo and in Angola. Since I was young I have been used to follow games with him.
When did you decide to become a professional?
I started soccer in a small club in my neighborhood at 6 years old. At 12, I started playing at the Training Center of Lucerne. In 2009, I participated and won the World Cup M-17 with Switzerland in Nigeria and I then turned pro.
You wore the shirt of Swiss selection for years, what made you change your mind?
My heart told me to play for Congo. I have followed the CAN 2015 during which DRC impressed me a lot. The coach (Florent Ibenge) called me personally to explain the projects he had for me and I was eager to participate in this selection. I have talked a lot with my family on my choice.
What does competing in the Africa Cup of Nations mean to you?
Having played in a CAN is already a blessing. I have had the opportunity to wear the colors of my native country with the youth selection and now I play with the team of the DRC, the native country of my father. I am so proud that I do not have the words to explain it.
What does Congo evoke for you? Did you know the country before being called with the Leopards?
I went there for the first time with the national team. I discovered the country through soccer. Since then, I went there 20 times, but I still cannot say that I know it well. It is very big and I go there for work. The routine is: Hotel, Field, Hotel… For me Congo is my home. To see people with so much joy despite the difficult situation is incredibly touching. It is the country where my father was born and grew up.
I am half Congolese and half-Swiss. I have the opportunity to discover my other side thanks to football. It’s a 80 million people nation, the capital has more inhabitants than the whole Switzerland. And as a double champion of the Africa Cup and the first african participant to the World Cup, the whole country is crazy about football. I am very proud and I feel blessed to represent this great nation.
With the weight of traditions, the hierarchy, the elderness chain of command accentuated in the locker rooms, the tradition of songs in Lingala…It must have been a cultural shock?
Yes it is true that it was a small shock for me. My father always told me stories about congolese football but I was not aware of the reality. The first time I went there I was quite surprised. It is through these experiences that I see what my personality borrows from Africa. I am a very happy person, I like to laugh and dance. I know now where I get it from.
What does African football need to be competitive in the biggest international competitions?
For me the main reasons for this are the lack of infrastructure and professionalism in the training of young people. We have high-quality players in the greatest teams in the world. This has boosted the level of the national teams but we miss a system of development with the minimum infrastructure to ensure that those who have the passion and the talent could develop on time and realize their dream.
You are still young, what are your professional ambitions, join a large European Championship?
It is true, I am still young for a goalkeeper. I still have plenty of time to learn and grow. Summer has arrived and the Mercato just opened. My ambition is to join a team that plays competitions like the Europa or the Champions League.
Credit for all images:
Photographer: Sean Waltrous
Stylist: Sarah MK Paris and Kortney William