Joel Tshibamba: The Dutch-Congo Warrior in pursuit of silverware

Thanks to informatics and a thirst for success, Joel Tshibamba somehow ended up in Singapore. FourFourTwo finds out more about the new Warriors FC striker… 

After years of playing in Europe, how in the world did Joel Tshibamba end up in Singapore with Warriors FC?

It all began in the Dutch leagues, which has churned out some of the world’s finest footballers — Robin van Persie with Feyenoord, Dennis Bergkamp with Ajax Amsterdam and a certain Ruud Gullit are just some of the illustrious names that comes to mind.

Tshibamba was nurtured at N.E.C and his professional career started strongly as he scored two goals in as many games — he was a rising star, the striker said in his own words.

But his career would soon be disrupted by disciplinary issues, along with a change of management.

In 2008, Tshibamba was summoned during N.E.C’s game against Heracles Almelo when they needed a goal to break the deadlock in a scoreless match. He received a yellow card within a few minutes of coming on, but managed to open the scoring in the 74th minute.

Common sense soon gave way to youthful foolish exuberance though, as Tshibamba violated the laws of the game by removing his shirt amid his fervent celebration.

A second booking followed and with it, his dismissal. Heracles would go on to find the equaliser, to the fury of Tshibamba’s manager and team-mates.

The tribulations did not stop there for the young striker, as he then saw the coach who had given him his professional debut, Mario Been, replaced by PSV’s outgoing coach, Dwight Lodeweges.

Besides having to cope with a new coach, Tshibamba said he also struggled to maintain a harmonious relationship with the PSV players that Lodeweges brought in.

In my second year I didn’t get my chance and I fell out (with them), as you had (these) older players in the team and you couldn’t say much

– Tshibamba

Frustrations rose as he was eager to prove himself but felt that at that time, he was not taken seriously enough because he was at a young age and had his own unpopular opinions.

“I signed a four-year deal (with NEC) but the coach (Been) left,” Tshibamba told FourFourTwo. “The new coach brought (in older) players from there to our club.

“In my second year I didn’t get my chance and I fell out (with them), as you had (these) older players in the team and you couldn’t say much.

“You can see (me) as difficult or you can see it as having the passion, but these players were too quick to judge me (as being difficult).”

Unhappy with how things were at N.E.C, Tshibamba sought a way out and eventually secured a move to Czech outfit Lech Poznan.

It was a switch that he felt was vindicated, as he played in the Europa League for the first time.

With Lech, Tshibamba came up against the likes of Juventus and played a part in his side’s 3-3 draw with the Italian giants.

But what would prove more memorable was the highlight of his career: the moment he found the back of the net against English side Manchester City, although his side lost 3-1.

“Scoring against Manchester City was the highlight of my career, it was a nice experience,” Tshibamba shared.

“They had a strong team with (Mario) Balotelli, I was 21 and it was for me an experience that no one can take away from me although we lost the game.“

The move to Singapore

It was perhaps telling that for someone who had played with at least 11 clubs before he joined Warriors, Tshibamba’s best moments in football had no mention of any silverwares.

It wasn’t because he didn’t enjoy winning; he simply had nothing to show for his efforts despite ploughing through the various leagues in Greece, Russia, China, Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyrus and Denmark in the last six years.

Hence when Warriors came calling, Tshibamba was keen to jump on board after being convinced by the club’s plan to challenge for silverware.

“It is a new challenge here.  Although I have played in the Champions League and Europa League, I have won nothing so I cannot say that this is a step down,” Tshibamba said.

“Everything is an adventure for me. This is a new country and it is a new occasion. It is a new way to show who I am and make a name for myself and to help the team as much as possible.”

The Warriors had never watched Tshibamba play live before and instead turned to online footballing database application, InStat, to scout him using video replays and statistics before inviting him to Singapore.

This was a huge risk, in addition to his own admission of being a disruptive presence at N.E.C.

But Tshibamba was adamant that he has grown up since his N.E.C days and was keen to repay the Warrior’s trust in him.

“You know when you’re young, you have the energy, desire and fire to play,” he admitted. “Maybe sometimes I should have listened more and taken a step back but when you’re young, you want to play every game.

“The guys at Warriors are treating me good and adapting has been easier for me. I am excited to start my own part for the team.

“This is a new year and there are new chances. It is not like a holiday for me, I came to work and help as much as possible.”

Now, veering away from the proverbial spotlight, Tshibamba wants to put the past to bed and focus on what is yet to come with Singapore’s most successful S.League club.

The first step of adapting to a new league came off to a refreshing start when the striker’s first agenda was to feast on a plate of nasi lemak when he landed in Singapore.

Language is no barrier for Tshibamba, who was born in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo. In fact, the striker is fluent in six languages – his mother tongue Lingala, English, Dutch, German, French and Greek.

The cultural exposure, mixed with an open mind, has allowed the striker to ease into the multi-cultural Warriors team.

This was pretty evident during a training session, when his teammates mercilessly bantered with him after he had scuffed a free-kick badly.

Amid his teammates’ chats of ‘no more free-kicks for you’ and ‘you are banned from free-kicks’, Tshibamba said: “Yeah, I kicked the ground and now I will be hearing this for the next few weeks!”

Aside from kicking it, Warriors’ fans and team-mates alike will be wishing that the forward can also hit the ground running for a fruitful 2017 season.

Written By: Shanjayan Muniappan
Photos: S.League (Unless stated otherwise)