The Death of Modeste M’Bami, Saturday, at the age of 40, deeply upset the world of football, and in particular Francis Graille, president of PSG between 2003 and 2005. He had kept in touch with the 2000 Olympic champion, whom he had recruited from the summer of 2003. They exchanged messages again on Thursday. The former president of the capital club remembers the Cameroonian midfielder with great emotion and kindness.
“What memories do you have of Modeste M’Bami?
The first is that of his arrival. I also remember his wide smile, with his big teeth, and his presentation press conference where Vahid Halilhodzic (the coach at the time) had chambered it because he found it a little round. Modeste was always happy, he showed his feelings. We are very sad. I think of his daughters and his son.
Tell us about his arrival at PSG…
She almost didn’t. Vahid wanted it, so I started discussions with Pascal Urano, the former president of Sedan. We both quickly came to an agreement but he said to me: ”I think it’s too late because Modeste has gone to England for his medical examination”, in Wolverhampton from memory. I called his agent, Pape Diouf, who confirmed to me that he had passed his visit but that he was not signing until the next day.
“He did everything to get the little ones out of his country and make them progress to allow them to experience what he had known”
It must have been 7 p.m. Pape then told me that he was going to talk to him about it. We hung up and barely a few seconds later, he called me back to tell me that Modeste wanted to come to Paris. I said to him: ”What are we doing?” Pope answered me: ”Modeste is going to Paris tomorrow morning and I am going to stay here to explain to the English why he is not signing”. Thanks to Pascal Urano, Pape Diouf and the will of Modeste, he was able to sign in Paris. He did not want to leave France.
His adventure at PSG is also his serious fracture of the right fibula against CSKA Moscow (3-1 defeat and elimination from the Champions League), in December 2004…
It was an important match because with a victory, we qualified for the next round and Modeste was an essential link in the midfield. But his injury occurred at the start of the match, it disturbed the rest of the team who were very affected to see him go out on a stretcher with a broken leg. The match afterwards was no longer the same.
I remember Modeste crying in the locker room. I got off the stand as soon as he left the field on the stretcher and the doc told me: ”it’s serious, there’s probably a fracture”. I went to see him several times in the hospital, and I brought him the whole James Bond series that he loved. Not long ago he told me this anecdote that I had forgotten and told me that he still had them (moved).
Have you stayed in touch since PSG?
Yes, he called me when I left the club and then we met several times in Africa during the African Nations Cups, when I worked for Sportfive. He was really a nice guy, always with a smile even if lately he had some problems. More recently, we had exchanged because he wanted to help young Cameroonians to come and play in Europe.
He had plans to set up an academy…
Yes indeed. When I was president of AJ Auxerre, he brought different clubs to Cameroon where he organized scouting in small towns. He did everything to get the little ones out of his country and help them progress to allow them to experience what he had known. In recent days, he was still trying to bring some to France. »