FORMER Chipolopolo winger Clifford Mulenga says he regrets not telling former coach Herve Renard the truth about what transpired in Gabon during the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations where he was expelled from camp for misbehaving.
Speaking on Studio Ken with Kennedy Gondwe yesterday, Mulenga said during the tournament he was among five players who sneaked out of camp to go drinking, but he was used as scapegoat for others.
Mulenga was sent home just after the team landed in Bata from Malabo where they had beaten Equatorial Guinea 1-0 on January 29 to advance to the quarterfinals.
Then Football Association of Zambia communications officer Erick Mwanza said Mulenga was no longer part of the team after breaching curfew rules in camp.
However, Mulenga who had previously never spoken out about the incident, revealed that he kept quiet to protect unnamed teammates who he went out with that night.
“I was told that I had broken curfew because I had gone out to drink. It was a night that we had won and qualified to the quarterfinals and the guys I went with felt like having a beer to celebrate. So, we went the five of us to drink,” he said. “We didn’t get permission directly from anyone. The captain [Christopher Katongo] knew about our going out, so basically the captain did give us permission to go out. At that moment when you think of the team, I think we were not allowed to go but we were in the celebration mood. After winning and qualifying to the quarterfinals, we felt it was okay to go out and have a few beers. I was used as scapegoat, I believe to set as an example to everybody I guess, because to start with, I was not the one who came up with the idea. And when we came back from that outing, I was okay. I reported for breakfast as usual and there were two guys that didn’t report for breakfast. So when they came with the decision that I had to leave, it came as a shock to me.”
Mulenga, who was labelled as the ’bad boy’ of the national team, feels that his former teammates sold him out.
“I think it’s because of my past experience with the national team. I had a bit of some run-in with the national team so … and people were aware of it. So I felt that if they tell people that I was the mischievous [one] in that camp, people will easily believe it than the people who were wrong that night,” Mulenga explained further. “I was very shocked; I was very devastated. I cried a bit, I tried to explain myself or to ask him [Renard] why I was being kicked out. All he said [was] he knew what happened and I was on the wrong. But I asked him, what about the other two guys that were caught red handed? …The morning that we woke up [there were] only three guys that showed up for breakfast, the other two failed to because they were drunk and had girls. We were at the [night]club five of us and three got girls; me and Hichani Himoonde didn’t leave with any girl; so the three guys should have been the ones to have been sent home.”
He however regrets not telling Renard the truth about what really transpired that night.
“I have a tendency of protecting my friends and I thought if I had mentioned girls, it could have been a big issue and caused a lot of disturbances in the team. The issue of importing (bringing girls in camp) is a very common issue. Sometimes you stay in camp for a while and you know guys just want to relieve themselves, so we did sneak in some girls into camp,” said Mulenga. “I regret for not speaking out at that moment, I should have told the coach. You know that we were the five of us and I should have told him what had happened the previous night because I didn’t have a girl that night. The only mistake was to have a beer and go out that night.”