Sunday, August 30, 2009

Not a Matter of Life and Death

L'Équipe had an interview with Steve Savidan the other day (unfortunately there's no link, as L'Équipe wisely protects its print edition by running only a cursory website). Savidan was a journeyman striker who, after plodding about unnoticed in the lower divisions of the French league, suddenly came alight late in his career with the unfashionable northern clubs Valenciennes and Caen. For the past four years he was among the top scorers in Ligue 1, not bad for a guy who earlier in his career combined his football with a stint as a binman and who also, by his own admission, was fond of a drink.

Savidan's dogged, unlikely rise to fame brought him a call-up to the French national team where he won his only cap against Uruguay last year. And then his dream move came, to Monaco, in June this year. However, those dreams were dashed when the routine medical inspection revealed cardiac anomalies, forcing him to hang up his boots. One might expect this to be a source of eternal regret but the 31-year-old Savidan is a model of level-headedness. He said finding out about the heart defect was the luckiest day of his life, pointing out he could easily have gone the way of Marc-Vivien Foé, Antonio Puerta and Dani Jarque, among others. Savidan also said he has already achieved things in football way beyond his wildest dreams. He now plans to move into coaching and punditry, while he keeps fit cycling and runs a bar-restaurant in his adopted hometown of Caen. Monaco, by way of recompense, offered to let him kick off their recent home game against Toulouse. Football gets a bad press much of the time thanks to the obscene salaries earned by many players and the bad behaviour of a minority. But it would be nice to think that people like Steve Savidan, devoid of pretentiousness or delusions as to their importance in the wider scheme of things, are every bit as representative of the game as those less savoury elements.