Ribéry in the Dock again
As if their form over the last ten years wasn’t bad enough, depressing news of a more sinister sort raised its ugly head in the milieu of the French national soccer squad last April.
It was pneumatic Parisian call-girl Zahia Dahar who dropped the bomb, alleging that she had had highly improper sexual relationships with several members of the French national squad (including with Olympique Lyon’s Sidney Govou when she was still under-age). Whatever about the veracity of Zahia’s claims, Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribéry has been one of its major victims so far. The entire business consumed a good chunk of the French media over the last year and a half, where Ribéry has been relentlessly pilloried for his perceived involvement. Both he and international team-mate Karim Benzema (who is also his brother-in-law) were even arrested in July of last year and made to answer some sticky questions for seven hours before being released.
The follow-up of those investigations is still under way. In the meantime, however, a new book has just been released that paints an ugly portrait of 28-year-old Ribéry.
Entitled “La face Cachée de Franck Ribéry” (The Hidden Side of Franck Ribéry), the unauthorised biography of one of France’s most admired midfielders was written by journalists Gilles Verdez and Matthieu Suc – both of the national daily title “France Soir“”.The book goes into forensic detail on the case, where a similar theme keeps re-appearing from the testimonies of Zahia and her accomplices – namely that of sex. Although Ribéry’s own version of what allegedly went on is, according to the authors, “cloudy”, Zahia herself pulls no punches in telling like it was in extracts published in yesterday’s edition of France Soir: “There was Kamel (a close friend of Ribéry) and another girl. There was also Ribéry’s brother and Ribéry’s wife. Everyone was making love… it was all mixed together, everyone went off with everybody else”.
The book also details accounts of the alleged meeting between Ribéry and Zahia and how he managed to keep the affair secret from his wife by hiding bills and other expenses associated with his illicit trysts.
The authors’ motivation for writing the book seems to based on seeking to expose the rotten heart of the world of professional association football.
“We had the idea of doing this book last summer at the time when Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema were arrested,” says co-author Matthieu Suc. “We wanted to portray this other side of Franck Ribéry. When he burst upon the football scene, he brought a freshness of approach onto the field of play as well as to his general behaviour. He had this spontaneity; a sort of infantile grace and after the Zahia affair, everything had changed.
“We wanted to show that Ribéry could also sometimes be a calculating individual; one who had unpleasant thoughts. He has done some rotten tricks in his career. He’s cut his conversation short many times, often it’s a matter of money. But all that doesn’t mean that some people in the world of football won’t have good memories of him. He’s not the only one to blame.”
Suc’s accomplice Gilles Verdez says that there is “a sort of omerta in the world of football that I never came across before when dealing with subjects far more serious than this one.” (Verdez is also the author of a book about organized crime) “All of that is linked to money, which remains a very important subject in the footballing milieu. Our book shows the very particular relationship that exists between football and money that certain stars of the round ball have.”
Ribéry has already requested that the book be withdrawn from bookshelves. Interestingly, he’s not quibbling about the content, but rather about the usage of a particular photo in the book. Suc, however, points out that he tried several times to make contact with both Zahia’s and Ribéry’s solicitors to explain the content of the book but did not receive any reply from either.
“The courts will soon decide whether or not Ribéry and Benzema are to be put on trial,” says Suc. “It’s not the case of prostitution in itself that’s serious – it’s that it was with minors. Without that fact alone, I’m not sure if we would have even written a book.”