A day with Lilian Thuram

Nani Nana

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I caught hold of an interesting story by askabob91 in the newbies. He reports Lilian Thuram's visit in his Duke University of North Carolina yesterday.

Thuram is known in France for being an outspoken person who didn't hesitate to criticize Sarkozy (when he was still Minister of the Interior) for saying the cités should be washed with Karcher a few years ago, a statement that caused something of an outcry. Thuram also supported immigrants who were on the cusp of being expelled to their country for not having papers, and invited them to France games at the Stade de France.

Obviously Thuram soon started being criticized for speaking his mind at some point, as the French aren't too used to paying heed to their footballers off the pitch, but I think what he says is usually accurate and he's a likeable person all-round, thus his visit to Duke should be shared.

Here's askabob91's report

Thuram was first asked about his history (i.e. heritage, where he was born, grew up). He replied that he was from the French Guadalupe and was scouted by Monaco and signed with them. Initially, he played as a winger but was later on asked to move back to defense by the coach. He claimed that he was upset at first, (jokingly) adding that only 'lesser' players played in the back. He later realized that this was untrue, and said that he would do whatever the coach asked of him as long as it was good for the team.

He recounted one of his first games for Monaco when he made two mistakes that led to two goals--he made two backpasses which the opposition picked up on. Later, Thuram felt depressed and his manager Arsene Wenger consoled him, telling him that 'the best players make the least mistakes,' and that he would eventually get there. Because of the confidence that Wenger showed in him, Thuram said that he (Wenger) was one of his favorite managers and that he held a special place in his heart for him.

He talked about his life in Italy and how he got to play with defensive greats such as Cannavaro and Buffon. The Calciopoli Scandal was brought up, and he said that he was glad that Juventus was given the punishment that they deserved, even though he played with them. He said there was no place in sports for drug usage (although he had seen teammates do this, did not name though) and cheating, and his team was no exception.

He said that lifting the World Cup was fulfilling his childhood dream--something every boy wants to do in his life. Since he was so lucky to have done this, he wanted to help and give back to the world. One thing that troubled him was the racism in football.

He described the situation in France; how Blacks and Arabs were considered foreigners by many although they made up a large portion of the national team and population of the country. He discussed the insignificance of race, and when asked what race he was, he replied 'I am human.' He said that he disliked President Sarkozy, and when the President asked him to become his Minister of Diversity, he [Thuram] declined saying that he did not know what diversity was. He also discussed how if a man was French, it did not matter if anyone told him he was not. As long as he professed love for his country, he was French, and whatever everyone else said was insignificant.

He created the Lilian Thuram Foundation to educate against racism. His principle is that if racism is erased in childhood, it will not reappear when children grow up. His foundation organizes events for schools and other organizations in order to help people realize that racism is a social construct and that the grasp of the impact of historic slavery must be broken in this modern world. I asked him why Gandhi's silhouette was the logo for his organization, and he said that Gandhi was one of the greatest souls to grace this earth. He said he was worried that in 200 years, people would question the fact that such a great figure ever existed.

Finally, I asked him who was the best player that he ever played with. Laughing, he pointed to himself. But then he said foremost would be Zidane who was a 'fantastic player,' Ronaldinho, Messi, and Ibrahimovic. Interestingly, he didn't mention Henry (but he might have been referring only to club team-mates).

He said that the best player of his generation, without a doubt was Ronaldo. With a chuckle and a wink, he added 'not Cristiano.' :D

At the end I went up and got his autograph and a picture with him. However this time, I asked him a question directly in English (before, a translator had translated my questions into French and his answers into English) but he just nodded and smiled. It made my day.
I like footballers who do something worthy of their post-career. Especially Thuram who went through some hardships with his brother passing away because of an undetected heart condition, and himself withdrawing from the game because of that condition.

I find very interesting the point he brings up with racism in France; I'm bemused by the contrast with England and its capacity to assimilate its immigrants who are generally perfectly happy in England and feel at home there; massive contrast from minorities in France who too often feel like being treated as foreigners, and as such dream of going back to their country, that they actually know seldom of.
 

FranklyVulgar

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I've got a pretty little mouth underneath all the
always had a lot of respect for Thuram, a brilliant defender, could play across the back, could go on runs, had power, pace, ability and read the game really well. Obviously doesnt have a clue about football according to a lot of the muppets on here if he rates Ibrahimovic as one of the best players he's played with! :lol:
 

mr.suave

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Yeah we were linked with him for a couple of seasons.

Would have been a fecking brilliant signing, to be fair. Easily one of the best defenders of his era.
 

::sonny::

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A priest missed, he has been a fantastic defender, especially in his Parma days