Arrest warrants, bonuses and government pardons - Former Arsenal target's weird October

Stoppila Sunzu

Stoppila Sunzu was once linked with Arsenal, then Reading, then Sunderland. But October 2013 has to be the weirdest month of his career so far...

In January it seemed Arsenal had picked up one of Africa’s most promising prospects - when it emerged that Zambian international Stoppila Sunzu seemed to be on his way to The Emirates. At the time the TP Mazembe player announced:

"I will be travelling to England to sign a deal with Arsenal after the friendly game against Tanzania. I spoke to both Mr Katumbi (his current club manager) and Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger who assured me that I would not be going to London for trials but to discuss personal terms and possibly sign a contract."

At just 24-years-old he already has over 40 caps for the Chipolopolo and scored the winning penalty when his nation won the African Cup of Nations in 2012 - so he certainly possesses pedigree beyond his years.

But a deal to Arsenal never came to fruition. Mazembe refused to sell him on the cheap and despite reports to the contrary he was not available on a free transfer - which also spelled the end of a potential move to Reading.

Sunderland then had him on trial, but Martin O’Neill got the sack before he could have another look at him - after the defender injured himself in a behind-closed doors friendly, cutting short the original audition.

So he is now continuing with his career in DR Congo, with one of the biggest clubs in Africa.

But recently, he has been making the headlines for all manner of bizarre reasons.

He, along with fellow Zambian internationals and TP Mazembe players Nathan Sinkala and Rainford Kalaba have been involved in a bitter dispute with their own country over a discretion in mid-October.

Zambia had a friendly in China against Brazil last month, a marquee event the nation was waiting in anticipation for.

But the three Mazembe players ruled themselves out of the match with injury - something that did not go down well with Zambian officials.

The players subsequently had their passports removed by immigration officials ahead of returning to DR Congo from Zambia and all three also had ARREST WARRANTS placed on their heads for missing the game.

The Zambian medical team reportedly gave them the all clear for the fixture, so were shocked when they all refused to travel, but then tried to return to DR Congo for a CAF Confederation Cup match just a few days later.

In the end, they could not get home to play the game, which Mazembe won 1-0 against Malian side Stade Malien - a game in which Sunzu also received a playing bonus despite being stuck in the border town of Lubumbashi.

And three days later, they all received official pardons from the Zambian government - but the story does not end there, the rest is still to come.

Sunzu is said to still be furious about the row, and is reportedly considering his future with the international team. Considering he was said to be interrogated by immigration officials for over eight hours over the course of two days, you can understand why.

Now the Zambian government and Football Association is turning its attentions on their club team, TP Mazembe, who they feel put pressure on the players to not play for their club in China.

But for Sunzu, the whole mess has been nothing but an unwelcome distraction to his promising career. He is probably glad to see the back of October, so he can get on with his very promising career.

And who knows, the club v country row might even make him consider a move to the continent, in which case many a Premier League club will come knocking at the door.

image: © ennaimi

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