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Mwepu Ilunga
Personal information
Full name Joseph Mwepu Ilunga
Date of birth (1949-08-22)22 August 1949
Place of birth Belgian Congo
Date of death 8 May 2015(2015-05-08) (aged 65)
Place of death Kinshasa, DR Congo
Playing position Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
TP Mazembe
National team
1971–1975 Zaïre 21 (0)
  • Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Joseph Mwepu Ilunga (22 August 1949 – 8 May 2015) was a football defender from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). His name is also written as Alunga Mwepu.

Club career

Ilunga played club football for Englebert TP Mazembe in his native Zaire, with whom he won the 1967 African Cup of Champions and 1968 African Cup of Champions.

International career

Ilunga played for his country, then called Zaire, during the 1974 FIFA World Cup. During a group match against Brazil, he ran out of his team's defensive wall and kicked away a free kick before the ball was in play. He was subsequently cautioned, but some commentators felt that he seemed oblivious as to what he had done wrong. However, Ilunga claimed that he was quite aware of the rules – as would be expected from an experienced player in a successful side – and was hoping that the referee would send him off. The intended red card would have been a protest against his country's authorities, who were alleged to be depriving the players of their rightful earnings.

Zaire went on to lose that match 3–0, and by not getting a bigger loss Ilunga saved his and all his teammates' lives, as Zaire's dictator Mobutu Sese Seko would have killed them all in that case. They had already lost their first two matches to Scotland 2–0 and Yugoslavia 9–0.

Zaire were then the first sub-Saharan African team to qualify for the World Cup finals; however, during the tournament the players discovered they would not be paid.


Ilunga died in May 2015 after a long illness in the Saint-Joseph de Limete Hospital, Kinshasa.

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