Sunday, 9 July 2006

Some things you might not know about Franck Ribery

1. His name is, of course, short for Francois, pronounced with a long drawl and a rolled 'R' in Ribery.

2. His original surname was not actually Ribery, as this is the name he took from his later stepfather, Renard, a middle-tier street vendor of escargot and escargot-related products.

3. It was in this capacity that he met Francois' mother, Marie de France, who was also plying her wares in the street — as a middle-tier French whore.

4. As Francois was born as an occupational hazard of his mother's profession, his real father is assumed to be one of any number of short-statured, presumably syphilitic French sailors.

5. His childhood was filled with the terror and shame of hiding in a wicker basket filled with coal leavings while his mother entertained johns on the creaky, sweat-soiled mattress nearby.

6. Marie de France's marriage was, she hoped, an escape from the tawdry procession of ignominy that constituted the world's oldest profession, but the strain of transcending the demimonde life she had known before to achieve bourgeois respectability was often more than she could bear, driving her to vin and violence.

7. It was when she was in the grip of these twin demons that Francois received the massive, shoe-induced clout that created the deformity on his head that millions witness on the football pitch today.

8. Ribery adored Renard, the modest escargot salesman who he thought was his father, but as he grew older he found there a distance that prevented them from bonding as did Renard with Francois' half-siblings.

9. It was not until he was midway through his sixth year that he learned the reason why. In a fit of drink and depression, his mother led him to the top of the Notre Dame, where she stood on the precipice, forcing him to climb out with her. Slurring her words and spitting absinthe-infused bile, she turned on him and revealed the sorry truth before flinging herself to her death.

10. Francois returned home, but unable to bear the shame, he grabbed his meagre possessions and left for a life in the alleys and sewers, where he learned to compete with the other local guttersnipes for scraps of pain and soup du jour by perfecting his skills in games of street football.

11. On stormy nights, he would look up through the sewer gratings, the rain washing stinging tears across his misshapen head, as Renard, assisted by Francois' younger half-brothers, sold his snails to the cheerful public on the Rue de Edambleu.

12. Although he will never admit it to anyone except his Pere Confessor, Ribery awaits the day when, holding the golden World Cup proudly aloft, he will scan the crowds and perhaps see coming toward him the stooped shoulders and smiling face of the elderly Monsieur Renard, who will shower his face with kisses and at long last proclaim, "You are truly a son of mine."

n.b. If I do not engage in this sort of Ribery historiography with Sarah during World Cup games, she is reduced to repeating "Makelele" and "Totti" in a variety of silly voices.