From digging trenches to the World Cup final in four years. History of Franck Ribery

39-year-old Franck Ribery retired from playing. But did not say goodbye to football

bully with a scar

The world is not too hospitable to Franck Ribery.

He was born in 1983 in the small town of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northeastern France, near the border with Belgium, in a poor working-class family, and two years later he almost died in a car accident. The car in which Frank’s parents were driving overturned, and he himself flew out through the windshield.

From that accident, little Ribery left a scar, which later became his hallmark.

Many years later, Marseille fans will even start producing “Ribery masks” for Halloween, and they will be sold out even faster than masks with the image of Freddy Krueger or Frankenstein’s Monster.

But when Frank was still small, he could not even think of such a thing. The scar brought him only problems – because of him, he was bullied and often beaten. Ribery himself did not remain in debt either, gradually turning into a typical street hooligan.

The coaches of the Lille academy, where Ribery ended up at the age of 13, were shocked – Frank got into a fight because of any remark, he had no idea about discipline, but he didn’t seem to hear about studies at all. At the same time, the guy’s talent was undeniable, so the Dogs were busy with him for three whole years, before they were nevertheless expelled due to their unbearable character.

“Yes, it was probably not easy for my coaches. A teenager from an area like the one where I grew up is forced to be in a team in some isolation, ”Ribery admitted many years later.

Road builder Bilal

There was nothing to do – I had to return to my native Boulogne, where Frank soon fell in love. The story turned out to be non-trivial: his bride Wahiba was from Algeria, and her parents strongly opposed marriage with a Christian.

It might have stopped someone else, but not Ribery. He did not hesitate to accept Islam, and with it his middle name – Bilal.

“I grew up in a microdistrict dominated by council houses, in which many Muslims lived. I felt that Islam fit my ideas, and I didn’t need to change much in my life. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t eat meat. This is as much a part of my life as football, ”Ribery explained, having already become famous.

But it’s only now that everything sounds simple and smooth, but in 2002, when Frank was only 19 years old, the situation was depressing. Ribery took out a loan of 3,000 euros to buy furniture for a rented apartment, but there was nothing to repay it – performances for Boulogne brought him an average of about 1,500 euros.

To pay off the bank, his father got Frank into a road repair company. The work was physically demanding, requiring all day to dig trenches. But there was no choice, and the future star of Bavaria did this for half a year, until he paid off all the loans to the last cent.

Career matchup

It would seem now that the key games in Ribéry’s career were the World Cup and Champions League finals. But in fact, everything happened much earlier.

In 2003, Frank played for the provincial Brest and still earned no more than two thousand euros a month. This was barely enough to make ends meet, and he seriously considered quitting football. But then fate had mercy and gave him a chance.

The draw for the French Cup determined Nantes, which was powerful at that time, as Brest’s rivals, and the meeting was to be held at the famous Beaujoire.

The underdog had no chance of winning this match, but Ribéry cared little about Brest’s prospects. It was important for him to show himself. And despite the final defeat 0:4, he fulfilled his plan just brilliantly.

“In that match, I was running like I was trying to save my life. I played a super game. Two weeks later I had several offers from big French clubs. I think if I hadn’t been able to escape from Boulogne-sur-Mer, now I would be unemployed, ”Frank admitted.

Already six months after the game in Nantes, Ribery put on a Metz shirt, where Jean Fernandez personally called him. It was possible to forget about the career of a road builder – from now on, football became the only source of income for Ribery.

Turkish scam and Marseille crime

In Metz, Ribery performed exactly one season, during which he earned the love of the whole city and the nickname “new Pires”.

Galatasaray was not greedy and laid out as much as 5 million euros for a rising star – a lot of money for a small club from the French province. Frank himself also received a very attractive contract. But, as it turned out later, no one thought to perform it on Ali Sami Yen.

Galatasaray was in a deplorable financial situation and did not pay the salaries of the players for months. Ribery, who, unlike Hakan Shukur, Flavio Conceicao and other stars, did not yet have a financial cushion for such cases, suffered more than others.

As a result, in May 2005, Ribery won the Turkish Cup with Galatasaray, scoring a goal and an assist in the final with Fenerbahce, and a month later announced that he was returning to France, breaking the contract unilaterally. Galatasaray tried to sue, but FIFA sided with the player, who then also fired his agent, suspecting him of collusion with the Turks.

Well, then in Ribery’s career was Marseille, where he was invited by the same Fernandez.

Again, from a purely sporting point of view, everything was cool with Frank – he constantly appeared in the first team, decided in important matches, and deserved a call to the national team. But as for the near-football side, there were nuances.

“Marseille crime cannot be brushed aside. It’s a blessing that people love me. Watching my partners, I was convinced that everything could be completely different. If the fans were unhappy with the game of one of them, then, for example, upon returning from an away game, some players could find their apartments cleaned out, ”Frank said in an interview with Bild in 2007.

He then argued his move to Bavaria precisely because of the safety for his family – his wife and little daughter. In Munich, they were definitely calmer than in boiling Marseille, where the distance from love to hate is sometimes measured by one unsuccessful match.

Zidane’s heir

Success in Marseille did not immediately lead Ribery to the national team – his debut in the team took place only in May 2006, a month before the start of the World Cup.

Raymond Domenech then put Ribéry on in place of David Trezeguet for the last 15 minutes of the friendly against Mexico. And a few days later he included him in the final squad for the World Cup in Germany.

Either the stars suggested such a decision to the coach-astrologer, or a quarter of an hour was enough for Ribery to prove his usefulness – we will not know this. It is only known that not everyone understood Domenech’s decision in France. The PSG ultras joked that Ribery was brought into the team so that Zidane would not be alone in praying.

Franck Ribery, Getty Images

Zizou himself, by the way, never denied the patronage of Ribery. “I consider Frank my little brother. Everywhere I patronize him, I suggest. He impresses me both as a football player and as a person, ”the legendary midfielder said before the 2006 World Cup. It is clear that after these words, Ribery could not have problems with adaptation in the national team.

At the tournament itself, Frank played seven games and scored an important goal against Spain in the 1/8 finals. At that moment, all the French fans were in love with him, and the famous L’Equipe correspondent Jean-Luc Gatale wrote: “For us, journalists, the figure of Ribery is a hope for the future. Everyone rejoices when Frank is in the squad, and they are indignant when the head coach of the national team Domenech keeps him on the bench.


This boundless love will not last long – already at the 2010 World Cup, Ribery will be a real enfant terrible of the French team and will quarrel with Domenech for life.

There will also be in Frank’s life the famous sex scandal with the underage prostitute Zahia Dehar, as a result of which she will make a dizzying career, going from an escort model to a designer and muse of Karl Lagerfeld.

There will be Champions League finals; repeated invitations to Real Madrid; fights in the locker room with Arjen Robben, which eventually develop into a strong male friendship; the birth of four more children – two boys and two girls; and many, many crazy goals and the same deletions that will make the native of Boulogne the most unusual legend of the era of hipsters and Instagram stories.

He is not the handsome man with frizzy hair like Ronaldo, and he is able to say more nonsense in one day than Leo Messi in his entire life. But that is precisely his point. Ribery is anti-Ronaldo and anti-Messi rolled into one.

And remembering where he started his way up, you understand that it simply could not be otherwise. In the working-class neighborhoods of Boulogne, among dozens of gangs and thousands of migrants prowling in search of at least some kind of income, goodies do not survive.

Source: Sportarena

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