Congo DR forgoes anthem at AFCON for show of solidarity

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Congo DR players opted to make a show of solidarity instead of singing their national anthem ahead of Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinal against Ivory Coast in Abidjan.

The country is currently affected by domestic instability and political strife following contested elections at the end of 2023, with the government now also contending with an armed insurgency by rebel group M23 in the east of the country.

The Leopards camp had already spoken of their desire to offer solidarity with those affected by violence ahead of the match, and opted to draw awareness to the plight of the Congolese by refusing to sing their anthem pre-match.

Instead, the players clasped their right hands over their mouths, while making a pistol gesture with their left hands and holding it to their temple. The Congo DR players also wore black armbands in recognition of the lives lost in the conflict.

“Of course we’re aware of what’s happening, it’s sad,” midfielder Charles Pickel said on Tuesday. “It’s very close to home, but we and journalists can help by speaking about what is happening.”

Head coach Sebastien Desabre also revealed that his side is motivated by the desire to offer encouragement to those faced with violence back home.

“We will try to defend the colours of the DRC, as Charles said, so that the people who are suffering are proud of us,” the coach said. “We have this conviction too, to give joy and smiles.

“The players know it’s a special match because it’s a semifinal, but it’s also a special match for us to send a message of solidarity and thoughts to all those who are suffering in Congo.”

The winner of the Congo DR-Ivory Coast semifinal will face three-time champions Nigeria in Abidjan on Sunday, with the Super Eagles having dispatched South Africa 4-2 on penalties earlier on Wednesday.

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