Louis Saha: My Caribbean family values

The Tottenham and France footballer talks about his family in this article for London’s Guardian.

My father comes from a strict Caribbean culture and he replicated that in the way that he brought up his own children. He tried to balance my football with the rest of my education. He knew that there were a lot of talented players out there and not everyone could make it so he wanted me to realise how important the rest of my education was. So he made the right choices to push me and make sure I got enough education away from football. But when I started to progress as a footballer, he was behind me all the way in helping me mature as a footballer and as a man.

My dad is really competitive. He hates losing, he loves challenges and he’s a sports addict. He used to run for fun and football was his passion, so he wanted me to be as successful as possible and he was the one that gave me that virus of being obsessed with football and of wanting to win. And my mum – she’s very generous and she’s been working in a hospital so she’s very caring, very loving. I’m very much a product of both of my parents.

I’ve got one brother and one sister. My brother is 21 and my sister is 25. I left home quite early when they were very young, so I didn’t have the time to build a closer relationship with them. I try to see them as much as possible but they are in France and I am in Britain so it’s a bit difficult, but I speak to them on the phone regularly.

Without my Caribbean ancestry I wouldn’t be where I am today. My parents were born in a little town called Sainte-Protais, Sainte-Anne on Guadeloupe and I love going back there to visit my grandparents. I think it’s very important to connect with your roots, and I have total respect for my grandfather and his ancestors for the sacrifices they made for future generations. Without their fighting spirit I strongly believe my talent would not exist. Their history has given me that competitiveness and that desire to play football as hard as I can. We love and respect what our people have done for us, even as far back as times of slavery. For me to be allowed to enjoy my football; I owe it to them.

Being a father has changed everything for me. I would advise young players to find the right girl as quickly as possible because it gets harder and harder to find the right one when you’re older. I’ve got three children now and players with families are way more likely to be responsible and not go out partying until the early hours. I love being at Tottenham and I love London but it’s been hard being separated from my family for four or five months, as they’re still up in Manchester. It’s really tough for me but I have to balance my career choices and keeping a sense of continuity for my children. That’s the sacrifice you have to make.

The birth of my son Enzo, three days after I was suspended from playing for France in the 2006 World Cup final, put my life in sharp perspective. For 72 hours after the final I was depressed, speechless, destroyed – but I snapped out of it when Enzo arrived, and I was crying tears of joy not pain. That sort of thing keeps your feet on the ground and makes you realise life is good. And if Enzo decides he wants to be a footballer when he grows up, I will encourage him in whatever he decides to do. I will try to give him the right advice and I will try my best for him. That’s what a dad is supposed to do.

• Louis Saha’s autobiography Thinking Inside the Box is out now, published by Vision Sports Publishing

For the original report go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/may/26/louis-saha-tottenham-family-values

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