Chancel Mbemba, a former Newcastle defender, was at the center of a massive fight during Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Following the two teams’ 1-1 draw in the sweltering heat of San Pedro, Ivory Coast, Morocco manager Walid Regragui and DR Congo captain Mbemba—who currently plays for French powerhouse Marseille—had a passionate argument. Tensions escalated after full time, with the former Newcastle center-back receiving a yellow card for shouting with the referee throughout the match.
Mbemba was visibly upset by Regragui’s remarks as players and coaches hurried in to start a brawl, while Mbemba was gesturing towards the officials. As the players eventually made their way down the tunnel, footage showed large audiences getting involved and the mayhem growing so bad that Morocco’s goalie Yassine Bounou even had to drag teammate Youssef En-Nesyri back by his shirt.
“The heat is to blame. With the temperature hitting 32 degrees Celsius at kickoff, Congo’s manager, Sebastien Desabre, declared after the game that it was a major contest between two big nations. “The temperature is really high. really hot.”
Morocco was off to a wonderful start when, six minutes in, Achraf Hakimi of Paris Saint-Germain, the right-back, broke the stalemate with a cross from Hakim Ziyech, the former midfield player of Chelsea. Congo had an opportunity to respond before halftime, but Ziyech’s Galatasaray teammate Cedric Bakambu’s penalty in the 41st minute struck the post.
But with 14 minutes remaining, teammate Meschack Elia set up a goal for Congo’s Silas Katompa Mvumpa, making the score 1-1. With Morocco aware that victory would have advanced them, Mbemba was booked in the 98th minute, averting the mayhem as the top two teams in Group F battled for the win.
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TOPSHOT: On January 21, 2024, during Morocco vs. DR Congo’s Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) group F football match at Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro, DR Congo’s #22 defender Chancel Mbemba (CR) gets into an argument with Morocco’s staff.
Everything began when Congo held Morocco to a 1-1 draw.
The 29-year-old joined Newcastle in July 2015 after starting his senior career with Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht. During his challenging first season at St. James’ Park, the Magpies were relegated, but Mbemba was a member of the team that returned to the top division at the first attempt in the 2016–17 season.
He signed with Porto in the summer of 2018 for a reported amount of £7.14 million, and it would be his final season. After spending four years with the Portuguese team, which was twice crowned champions during that time, he moved to Marseille and has played there ever since.