Thank you Francky, it was good / Italy / Retirement of Franck Ribéry /

On Sunday August 22, 2004, the Munch Museum in Oslo reported the theft of the Shout and of Madonna, two paintings by the Norwegian painter. The same day several hundred kilometers away, it was doubtful that one of them had found himself by a miracle on this land between one of the arms of the Moselle and the A31 motorway. Today, everyone knows that it was actually one of Franck Ribéry’s first brushstrokes. An artist who bows out after 18 years of professional football.

The setting sun, the one that forces you to use your paws like a visor, is blinding. But no more than love. For a 14-year-old teenager, this Sunday presented all the necessary ingredients to make a first match at the stadium an unforgettable memory. It was Olympique Lyonnais, the reigning three-time French champion, who presented themselves that day in Saint-Symphorien, with Élber, Govou, Essien and Caçapa in the starting lineup. Opposite, a playful Metz team, guided by Jeannot Fernandez and embodied by local guys like Borbiconi, Proment, Obraniak or Renouard, still reassured by their 14e place the previous season and wanting to forget his descent into Ligue 2 which had occurred two years earlier. When you are seated in the East Stand, a few rows above the Horda Frenetik, the lawn takes on the appearance of a shadow theatre, the players’ legs stretching and the backlight casting doubt on the identity of those -this. Yet one will quickly detach, to the point of becoming an indelible dot in the retinas. He wears number 10, floats in his garnet jersey and twirls in his right lane. This 21-year-old boy is called Franck Ribéry. And thanks to him, impossible to forget his first outing at the stadium.

Fifteen days earlier, after a victory against Nantes at home (1-0), The Lorraine Republican had noted in its pages the benefits of this little guy, stolen for free from Brest (in National) under the nose and beard of FC Nantes and Ajax, brought back by car to Lorraine by Fernandez in person. For his first in Ligue 1 and in the professional world, Ribéry had organized a festival and delivered a decisive pass to Richard Socrier, the other summer recruit. So inevitably, garnet fans were curious to see if this little phenomenon could confirm in stride. They will not be disappointed and will even have to tear themselves out of their seats at half an hour when the winger, offset by Hervé Tum, stops time. A fresco that will be described by these words The Republican East in the next day’s edition: “All the leaders of Ligue 1 must, this morning, regret not having gone to Brest in the off-season. Because if they had taken a tour of Finistère this summer, they could have gotten their hands on a rare pearl, a hidden diamond, which the Metz technicians were able to find: Franck Ribéry, a small midfielder at the feet gold, with invaluable nerve and subtle dribbling. Talk to OL’s left-back, Jérémy Berthod, who almost suffered a stiff neck yesterday at the 31e minute, when the prodigy from Brittany began to dance in front of him: a double stepover « à la Waddle », a feint to the left, a small hook to the right, followed, to crown it all, by a cross shot slightly deflected by Abidal and which deceived Coupet. And that’s how Metz opened the scoring against the Rhodaniens. Thank you, Monsieur Ribéry, for the masterpiece! »

This ray of sunshine, OL will be able to seal it, tightening the game in the second half, Abidal in charge of extinguishing the opposing troublemaker, Coupet pushing back a penalty from Babacar Gueye, and another prodigy promised to a bright future, Hatem Ben Arfa, offering the equalizer to Florent Balmont. But the machine is launched, and nothing will hinder Franck Ribéry in his glorious march. Admittedly, Metz will only be able to take advantage of Franck Ribéry for six months, 22 games including a new madness at the Vélodrome (two assists to establish a 3-1 success in Metz). The scarred will go to Galatasaray from the winter of 2005, but his passage will remain as marked as a scar for the spectators of Saint-Symphorien. Eighteen years later, at a time when Ribéry hangs up his boots, they know full well that this love, they must share it with the fans of Galatasaray, OM, Bayern, Fiorentina and Salernitana, as well as with most of the people who have come across this colorful and explosive character in the world of football in their lives. The missile glued to Landreau, the gardener’s tractor, the « go ahead my child » by Gilardi, quotes in a song by Julien Doré, tap dancing on the set of Telefoot, the unscrewed salt shaker valve, the Ballon d’Or podium, scandals too, will be so many labels that will be stuck on his forehead. But this evening in August will be, at least for some 23,000 lucky people, the real beginning of a story that has an epilogue on this Friday.

The day Franck Ribéry scored his first senior goal

By Mathieu Rollinger

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