Amazing journey of Tanzania’s A-Leagues match winner born in a town with no roads & no electricity

Macarthur FC take on Melbourne Victory in Round 5 of the Isuzu UTE A-League.

This is the story of Macarthur FC midfielder Charles M’Mombwa’s rise through the ranks, after he enjoyed a dream international debut with Tanzania last weekend in their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying victory over Niger.

Arriving in Australia

Charles M’Mombwa was born in the eastern reaches of the Democratic Republic of Congo in a town called Baraka. At the time, the town had no roads, no running water and no electricity.

His family fled to Tanzania, where they spent two years before migrating to Zimbabwe. This all happened before M’Mombwa had turned six-years-old.

“A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them this, but I never really had the football dream. I never thought, ‘I want to be a professional footballer one day.’ Not until much later,” he told the Football Sack in 2021.

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Despite his lack of ambition to go pro with his football at a young age, his dad – who used to play professionally – picked up a number of coaching roles to help provide for his family, meaning he grew up around the game.

“I was always exposed to it because of my dad, and I just liked to play as much as possible,” he said.

“I was still so young so the older boys wouldn’t always let me play. My older brother would be playing and I’d be watching. I’d help out with whatever I could or sometimes they’d chuck me in goal. I just loved to be involved and loved participating.

“When we moved to Australia it was like a different world for us. A lot of different opportunities. A different life.”

M’Mombwa and his family moved to Australia after almost a decade in Zimbabwe, settling in south-west Sydney.

It was in New South Wales where he found the motivation to try to go professional with his football, as one of his brother’s mates recognised his natural talent.

“I remember I was in Year 11, and one of my brother’s mates who I knew had come to watch me play maybe once or twice,” he said.

“After the game he came up to me and said, ‘Nah, you can’t be playing here. I’ll take care of it. I don’t care if it’s fees or whatever. We need to see how far you can go.’

“He organised a little meeting with my family and some other friends, and he looked for trials for me, wherever they were he’d take me. I appreciate him so much for what he did for me.”

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M’Mombwa played his junior football in NSW first with Dulwich Hill, before joining Mt Druitt Town Rangers after a year with the former.

His performances at the Rangers caught the eye of the Central Coast Mariners, who snapped up the then 19-year-old signing for their academy side in 2017.

Landing at the Mariners

It didn’t take long for M’Mombwa to make an impact in Gosford.

Within a year, the midfielder earned his senior debut under Isuzu UTE A-League Championship winning boss Mike Mulvey, coming on as a substitute in their 3-0 loss to Adelaide United in the Round of 32 in the Australia Cup.

In fact, M’Mombwa also played in the infamous Usain Bolt trial match against Macarthur South West United, coming on a minute after the fastest man in history scored his second goal of the game.

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He wouldn’t see any league action until later that season in March, making his one and only A-Leagues appearance with the Mariners as a second-half substitute during their 8-2 defeat at the hands of Wellington Phoenix.

Mulvey was dismissed shortly after the contest, with Alen Stajcic taking over as his replacement. M’Mombwa never saw another minute of action for the Central Coast, departing at the end of the season.

Running with the Bulls

After his departure, M’Mombwa looked abroad for his next opportunity.

The 21-year-old was put in contact with a number of European based clubs, including teams in Belgium’s second tier and Salford City in the UK.

Despite all the trials going well, difficulties obtaining a work visa forced a return home to Australia, where the A-Leagues’ newest franchise were starting to put their inaugural team together.

“I came back and probably only four weeks later Macarthur got in contact and I signed with them. It was crazy,” he told the Football Sack.

M’Mombwa was one of Macarthur FC’s first signings ahead of their first season in the competition under Ante Milicic.

It took until M’Mombwa’s fifth appearance at the club to earn his first start and he repaid Milicic’s trust immediately, scoring after 36 minutes in a 2-2 draw with Newcastle Jets.

From then on, he was a regular in the starting lineup as the Bulls locked away a first-ever finals appearance on the first time of asking.

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Macarthur went on the road to face Central Coast in Gosford in the Elimination Final, where he was handed a place in the starting lineup once more against his former side.

After the game went to extra time, M’Mombwa would open the scoring in the 93rd minute en route to the Bulls coming away with a famous 2-0 win on the road – which is still their only finals victory to date.

Macarthur’s season would end the following week to eventual champions Melbourne City.

The following campaign would see M’Mombwa play the most minutes in a single season to date (1,642), starting in 22 of his 25 appearances as the Bulls missed the finals, with Milicic departing shortly after the campaign to an end.

Since then, his minutes have dipped under both Dwight Yorke and Mile Sterjovski, playing primarily as a substitute in the last two seasons.

He was also an unused substitute in the 2022 Australia Cup Final victory over Sydney United 58.

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M’Mombwa made 18 appearances in all competitions last season, and a further five this campaign – spread between the league, Australia Cup and AFC Cup.

Dream national team debut

Despite a lack of minutes at club level, M’Mombwa was handed his first senior international call-up this month.

The midfielder was called up to the Tanzania national team for their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Niger and Morocco.

The 25-year-old was thrusted into the starting lineup for the clash against Niger last Sunday (AEDT) and capped it off by scoring the winner in the 56th minute.

M’Mombwa received the ball on the edge of the area and fired a shot across goal which took a wicked deflection as it went into the back of the net.

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“Thank you everyone,” he said as he pounded his chest post-game in a video shared by CAF.

“Thank you. Thank you Tanzania for the support.

“We didn’t know if it would be possible to win this game, so thank you.”

He would start once more against Morocco on Wednesday morning (AEDT), playing 88 minutes as his side fell to a 2-0 defeat against a side boasting the likes of PSG’s Achraf Hakimi, Galatasaray’s Hakim Ziyech and Manchester United midfielder Sofian Amrabat.