After stopping his career on a disappointing experience at Sparta Prague, the former international (13 selections) looks back on his atypical career in a book, "Captain of my life" that comes out on November 15. The champion of France 2011 with Lille assumes all its history, from the boat of the refugees to the tents of the Restos of the heart by way of its altercations with Ibrahimovic or his former coach Frédéric Antonetti.
Why did you want to write a book?
RIO MAVUBA. I did not live an ordinary life and wanted to leave a trace for my children. It will make them reading (smile). In fact, I wanted to tell things that resonate in the news and give hope to some people.
Your story of a child born on a refugee boat on March 8, 1984 between Angola and France is known but, for the last fifteen years, you have refused to talk about it. Why ?
The thing is, I talked about it when I started, but then it was distorted. It was said that I had grown up alone without my family or my mother's heart. As if my entourage did not exist. So, I closed this bubble because it did not suit me.
You can also tell your numerous passages to the Restos du cœur, so that you can get something to eat …
Why should I be ashamed? Some do not assume to have gone there. For my family and even my neighborhood, it was a help. It was beautiful all those families who came with their basket. There was a spirit of solidarity that is lost today. Without Eating Heart, I might not have had that fate. They helped me eat.
We know little but when you started in France against Bosnia in August 2004, you did not have French nationality …
It is true. I only had a political refugee card. I was a blue without papers. Against Bosnia, it was a friendly match so I could play. But then, there were two official matches that I could not play. I had to wait to receive my passport to replay. It was against Ireland. There, I was French. Like the others.
Your personal story is an echo of the current migrant crisis in Europe. How do you rate this news?
It affects me more than others even if I am not a politician with his solutions. But when this terrible photo of the little Aylan, the 3 year old Syrian who died on a beach in Turkey, was released in September 2015, it upset me. The most terrible thing is that it took this shot to react. And I put myself in the lot of those who waited too long. My story shows that migrants know how to assimilate. I am worried about the hostile reactions. We have lost our spirit of hospitality. France, normally, is the country that helps, especially Africans. It must remain a land of welcome.
In your last club, Sparta Prague, you have been a victim of racism. What happened ?
After a win, the custom is to go into the hands of fans. After a win, several guys pulled back their hand when I arrived. They only did it with the blacks and an Israeli teammate. There it kicked me. See this in 2018. It was as if I was no longer human. It's hard to get into those people's heads. At one point, I was almost sick to defend the colors of a club that had such supporters. There are morons everywhere but I have never known that in France. Once in Spain with Villarreal: but the guy who screamed monkeys was fired by the other supporters of the club!
VIDEO. Mavuba tells the day he "Zlatane" Zlatan
What's it like to be the man who stood up to Ibrahimovic?
(Shatters of laughter). It's been five years, but I'll be talking about it again in fifteen years. It was during a PSG-Lille. I had scored, which almost never happened to me, but everyone just remembered my altercation with Zlatan. Because I dared "Zlataner" Zlatan! He pushed me, we got warm and I put my hand on his throat. And there, he sought to have me expelled by falling alone. Watching him fall, I thought, "Wow, but I'm tough." I was not going to be impressed. We ended up in other games and he looked at me respectfully.
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What is not the case of your former Lille coach Frédéric Antonetti?
He was upset because, in a show on RMC, I said he had not mentioned me in the serious people of his team and that it had made me lose credibility. I know he told people in Lille that he would get his revenge. And one evening, on Canal +, it exploded me by suggesting that I did not have a proper lifestyle. It was mean and cowardly because when he was my coach, he had denied having a problem with me. I explain in my book how paranoid he was. But I did not say everything. I kept it under my elbow … Everyone knew that I went out at night to see previews or concerts. But to say it like that, it was small.
What do you think of the new generation of players?
These young people receive everything sooner. They are spotted at 12 and have agents at 16. And some find themselves financially almost heads of families at this age. It's complicated then to keep your feet on the ground. The problem today is the entourage. I have seen kids come as phenomena and get lost at 20 years old. But the world has changed and I do not know how I would have reacted in their place.
Do you want to go back to football?
But I will come back to it. I will pass my diplomas. And I have a contract with Lille that says, in two years, I'll take care of youth teams.
In which players do you find yourself today?
Of course, there is N'Golo Kanté and not only for size. He is more introverted than me but his attitude on the ground I like. He is humble and big workman. Just a flat, I would have liked to see him force his nature and harangue his teammates. The other guy I like is Verratti. In his job, he is one of the few to take so many risks. And people go to the stadium to see guys who dare.
The cover of the Rio Mavuba book./
*"Captain of my life", Solar editions. 190 pages. 16.9 euros.