Several Dutch clubs have paid tribute to Jodi Lukoca following his shock death, including his former team SC Cambuur

Warning – This article contains strong language.

When Jodi Lukoki died three months ago, the football community in the Netherlands was shocked by his death, but an even bigger surprise was to follow when the DR Congo international’s final days and months were revealed.

Questions about his death have been raised since the beginning.

Namely, how can a football player, almost ready to return after a long layoff with a serious knee injury, die suddenly at the age of 29?

Lukoki was a textbook winger at FC Twente, but despite ​​signing a contract with the former champions in July 2021, a combination of injury and a chaotic personal life ultimately denied him chances in the team.

In fact, hours before the former Ajax Amsterdam star’s death on May 9, there was heated controversy, allegations of excessive abuse of nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas – and a leg amputation.

There were even reports that Lukoki, whose family hails from the Amsterdam suburb of Osdorp, had been fatally shot at the hands of a local mixed martial artist, an allegation that has been vehemently denied.

On May 25, police said Lukoki died of natural causes, an infection with unknown origins but which may have been brought on by months of alleged substance abuse when the so-called laughing gas became anything but funny.

Still, humor and positivity are closely associated with Lukaku by some who know him, such as his former teammates and coach at Twente.

“Jody always made people laugh – you would smile spontaneously when he was around,” Twente winger Virgil Misijn told BBC Sport Africa.

“I will remember him as a great guy, a good guy,” Twente coach Ron Jans told BBC Sport Africa. “When I think about him, I always start to smile. But it seemed that his last six months were actually a lot of suffering.

“His private situation was quite complicated. I don’t really want to know a lot of things because I have good memories of him.”

Who was Jody Lukoki?

Jodi Lukoki in the game for Ludogorets Razgrad.
Lukoki played for Ajax and Ludogorets in the Champions League, scored for the Dutch club Zwolle in the Europa League

Born in Kinshasa, Lukoki fled fighting in DR Congo with his parents in the 1990s and grew up in Amsterdam, where he was on the roster of a local side until the age of 10.

After five years in Ajax’s famous youth system, Lukoki made his first-team debut in 2011 and went on to make over 30 appearances for the club, four of which came in the Champions League, including against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.

Despite winning three titles in three seasons, the right winger – who was not a regular starter – left the Dutch capital in 2014 for PEC Zwolle, where he would score the club’s first goal in European football history.

By the time his first season at Zwolle was over, Lukoki was in the news for other reasons – which hinted at his life off the pitch.

He was acquitted by a court in the capital of the Netherlands in February 2015 for laundering money for Amsterdam criminals and handling stolen goods.

He moved to Bulgaria at the end of that season, where he spent five good years with Ludogorets, winning five league titles, before spending two years in Turkey with Yeni Malatyaspor before finally returning to Dutch football with Twente in June last year.

But his comeback quickly took a turn for the worse.

“The prospect of us being able to play football together again was wonderful,” said Misijan, who joined Twente the same month and previously played for Lukoca in both PEC and Ludogorets.

“The first few days after he came back were fun and like old times. But he got injured quickly – either the first week or the second week he came back – it was really disappointing.”

“He came to the club once or twice a week during his rehabilitation and always brought a positive attitude,” said Twente’s Algerian midfielder Ramiz Zerouki, who came through the Ajax system from Lukoca.

“It must have been difficult for him, but he still went into the locker room before the game to cheer everyone on.

“His qualities were obvious – very quick and agile. Twente was a way for him to get back to his previous level and then take another step up. The question is always whose ceiling as a footballer is – unfortunately we will never know. “

Chronicle of an unspeakable death

On the weekend before his death the following Monday, Lukoki attended a party in the town of Almere, near Amsterdam.

Details are difficult to confirm, but at one point the father-of-one was involved in an altercation with at least one other guest and was reportedly punched at least once.

All that is known is that a few hours later Lukoki was taken to the hospital with a severe headache and knee pain.

Soon, doctors diagnosed the football player with an infection and an acute lack of oxygen, as a result of which a decision was made to amputate one of his legs.

Jodi Lukoki during his Ajax in Amsterdam
Lukoki played for the Dutch clubs “Ajax”, “Kambur” and “PEK Zvole”, the Bulgarian “Ludagorac” and the Turkish “Yeni Malatyaspor”.

Although Lukoki was placed in an induced coma after the amputation and doctors were deciding whether to amputate the arm, Lukoki went into cardiac arrest and died early Monday morning.

Rumors soon began to circulate – one of the most serious of which was the accusation by Lukoka’s relatives that a local MMA fighter named Viktor Kuku played a significant role in his tragic death.

In May, Kuku’s lawyer said his client, who has ties to the Dutch underworld, had been the target of false allegations.

“The reason my client is a suspect is because Lukoki’s family told everyone: ‘Something happened outside during the party and Kuku was there, so he is responsible for Lukoki’s death,'” Jane-Hein Kuipers told BBC Sport Africa.

“Apparently [Lukoki’s family] I don’t think it’s possible for Lukoki to die from the frequent use of laughing gas and alcohol, but it sure looks like it.

“Lukoki went to the hospital because of a headache. The hospital thought he had a concussion, but there are no injuries.”

While Kuijpers acknowledges there was physical contact between Cook and some individuals at the party, he says there was no assault involved.

“It appeared to be a family gathering or a party,” Kuipers continued. “Relatives not related to my client messed around, argued and behaved violently. They drank too much.

“My client was inside and heard them arguing and went up to them and said, ‘Enough of this nonsense. You’re all family, don’t act stupid.’ He then slapped four or five people on the cheek and said, “Now keep the party going.”

Tribute to Jodi Lukoca at the match between
Lukoca’s former club Ajax was one of several in the Netherlands to observe a minute’s silence in his memory

Kuipers told BBC Sport Africa – before police issued the same statement – that Lukoka’s death was the result of a bacterial infection rather than an assault, with police later questioning four people about the latter, ruling out manslaughter.

The source of the infection remains a mystery, but one theory is that prolonged abuse of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, can lead to serious health complications – and some have linked Lukoca’s fall to it.

For in February, just as the prospect of returning to training after a cruciate ligament injury loomed, Lukoca’s contract with Twente was terminated following disturbing reports of alleged domestic violence against his girlfriend.

“We are shocked by his behavior and will take appropriate action,” Twente CEO Paul van der Kraan said when the news broke. “Jody’s behavior crosses the line and is unacceptable. We made that clear to him.”

A few days later, the club terminated his contract, citing “events in the player’s private life” and that his continued involvement with the club was “not an option”.

Lukoki would never play competitive football again.

The cancellation of his contract is said to have contributed to his abuse of laughing gas, although no one close to him is ready to give details about such widespread claims in the Dutch media – the BBC has unsuccessfully sought comment from his family and agent in the case.

Ron Jans and Jodi Lukoki
Coach Ron Jans instructs Lukoca during their time together at PEC Zwolle

Coach Jans, who first became aware of Lukoki’s complicated private life when he coached him at PEC Zwolle, says Lukoki was sometimes “naive”, that the party stories seemed “unintelligible” and that he is afraid to learn the whole truth. .

“I don’t want to dig deeper when I see how certain things have gone,” Jans said.

“Everything around him raises so many questions. He may have done many unwise things. How is it possible that you are capable of domestic violence? Jodi didn’t grow up like most of us. [having fled DR Congo with his family] and maybe that has something to do with it.

“I haven’t been around the whole time so I can’t say anything about certain things – it’s easier to see Jodie’s sunny side.”

Michigan is also afraid to learn more about his old friend and the secrets he might be hiding.

“We also don’t want to know what happened – then we’ll be left with even more questions,” he said. – All this is already difficult enough.

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