The history of the World Cup is littered with some of the most memorable moments in football history, from Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick in the 1966 final to Diego Maradona’s legendary performances in 1986, all the way up to Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil in the 2014 tournament.
Of course, with 20 tournaments now behind us and a myriad of different nations having taken part over the course of those tournaments, there have been plenty of bizarre moments that have been equally memorable, too. Here are 5 of the most bizarre moments in World Cup history.
#1: Mwepu Ilunga finds a unique way to stop a free-kick, World Cup 1974
The country of Zaire – now the Democratic Republic of the Congo – have only ever appeared in one World Cup tournament, in West Germany back in 1974. Unlike some other one-timers though, they provided the football audience with one of the most bizarre moments in World Cup history.
After losing their first two group games to Scotland and Yugoslavia, they were faced with holders Brazil in what looked set to be another one-sided loss. With 10 minutes to go, Brazil were duly 2-0 up when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. With Rivelino appearing to line a shot up, the referee blew the whistle, only for Zaire defender Mwepu Ilunga to sprint out of the wall and boot the ball up the field.
It was a genuinely bizarre moment that was put down to “African ignorance” by commentator John Motson, who assumed that Ilunga simply didn’t know or understand the rules. The defender received a yellow card for his actions, which also appeared to baffle him.
Later on, Ilunga explained that he was attempting to be sent off in a protest against the fact that his country’s dictator was refusing to pay the players, but as he only received a yellow card it didn’t quite work out, and it remains one of the most replayed comical clips in World Cup history.