Britt Assombalonga scored his first goal for DR Congo in their Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Egypt 2019 4-0 Group A win over Zimbabwe, slightly a year after he made his debut for the Leopards in a friendly match against Tanzania in March 2018.
The 26-year old Middlesbrough striker moved to England with his family when he was eight months old and was eligible to play for the English and the DR Congo. He received his maiden call up in 2014 but declined and then it was followed up by another call up in 2015.
This did not go through as his paperwork was not completed in time. He had a further call up for the 2017 AFCON but declined to focus on club football with Nottingham Forest.
His father, Fedor Assombalonga is also a former DR Congo (formerly Zaire) international.
The striker sat down with CAFOnline.com to talk of his exploits with the Leopards and future plans.
CAFOnline.com: There was a viral video on Twitter of your dad crying in joy in the stands after you scored your first ever goal for DR Congo. How did that make you feel?
Britt Assombalonga: It was so humbling and really great to see my dad happy and in tears of joy that his son has scored a goal in a competition like the Africa Cup of Nations. It is a great achievement for me and my family and it was a perfect day. This is a day that I will remember for years to come.
Finally nailed that first goal for the country of your birth; what was the adrenaline like?
It was unbelievable because this is something I have always looked forward to and have worked so hard for. To be able to do it on a big stage, at such a tournament and in a crucial game like that made it special and I hope it is the beginning of many more to come.
You made your debut last year, how has it been since then?
I have really enjoyed playing for DR Congo because this is what I have always wanted to do in honour of my father and it has been good so far. The players are very friendly and they welcomed me well. I really feel comfortable more so because we keep pushing each other to do better.
This is the first time you are playing at the AFCON, but there was an opportunity for you in 2017 but you turned it down. Why?
At that time, I was still trying to get my feet in my club and I just wanted to concentrate a bit on it. It is not that I didn’t want to play for my country but I felt it wasn’t the right time then. You know it was in January and that is when the season is really in the thick of things. Now the AFCON is in June and July so it is a bit easier to play when the season is off than right through the middle in January.
And now that you are here, what are your targets with DR Congo at this AFCON?
We didn’t start so well with back to back losses but now we hope that we can improve because we are in the knockout round. We want to go as far as we can and that means we need to keep working hard and we see what we can achieve.
Finally, future plans and targets with DR Congo?
I just want to give my best, keep pushing in every way possible. I hope I can bring something different to the team and you know see us winning something as a country. I think that will be special not only for me and the team but my family as well.