People would say: ‘Look what he has on his face, look at his head. What is this scar? It’s so ugly’. Wherever I went, people would look at me. And not because I was a good person or because my name is Franck or was a good footballer, but because of the scar”.
The life story of former Bayern Munich star, Ribery is one of the most traumatic story you’d ever read. It spots a young boy who was able to overcome a painful beginning through resilience and got to the zenith of football. Frank Henry Pierre Ribery was born on this day (April 7th) in 1983 but was abandoned by his biological parents on the steps of a monastery and picked up by convent nuns before he was adopted by his current parents. Fast, tricky, excellent dribbler, right-footed but prefers playing on the left wing, Ribery has been recognized on the World stage as one of the best French players of his generation. Zinedine Zidane once nicknamed him ‘The Jewel of French Football”.
Scar Face- Stronger than pain!
Two-year old Ribery and his family were involved in a car accident near his hometown, colliding with a lorry. He suffered serious facial injuries that resulted in more than one hundred stitches and which left two long scars down the right side of his face, and another across his brows.
Revealing to Simon Kuper in his ‘The Football Men’ book, Ribery claimed the incident motivated him at a young age:
“The problem was that I was sitting in the back and I went flying forward on impact. In a certain way this accident helped me. As a child, it motivated me. God gave me this difference. The scars are part of me, and people will just have to take me the way I am.”
And speaking to Canal+ Sport in 2018, Ribery said:
“The scars gave me the strength and character to overcome problems because when you are little and have that scar, it isn’t easy to deal with it. I suffered because I was young and was bothered by the reactions but I never went to the corner to sulk or cry.”
The Irregular Journey to Stardom
Ribery began his football career, aged six. He played in the youth section of amateur club FC Conti de Boulogne-sur-Mer for 7 years before signing his first professional contract with Lille in 1996. In 2012 ahead of a UCL match against Lille, Ribery revealed he was released from the Lille Academy after a broken elbow and because he was too small. He returned to his hometown to join US Boulogne where he played for 2 years before earning a move to Olympique Ales through his solid performances. He left for Stade Brest after Ales was declared bankrupt and relegated to the sixth division of French football. Ribery helped Brest to Ligue 2 promotion and joined Metz on a free to fulfil his desires of playing in the top division. In 2005, Ribery moved to Galatasary where he was nicknamed “Ferraribery”, in reference to his quick acceleration with the ball at his feet and also “Scarface” due to a large scar located on the right side of his face.
Ribery won his first major honour as Galatasary beat Fenerbance 5-1 to win the Turkish Cup. After a controversial transfer saga, CAS terminated Ribery’s contract with Galatasary and he signed for Marseille in the 2005-2006 season. At Marseille, Ribery settled in just immediately. In his first season, he won the Supporters Goal of the season for his long range goal against Nantes which he scored from 35 metres out. He also won the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP) Young Player of the Year .
His second season was plagued with injuries though he was able to lead Marseille to the finals of the Coupe the France. Marseille also had their best league finish at second place and following the season, Ribery was awarded the French Player of the Year by French sports publication- France Football. The honor ended the four-year reign of Thierry Henry .
The German Big Stage
On June 7th, 2007, German giants Bayern Munich announced they have signed Franck Ribery on a four-year deal for a club record €25 million and was given the number 7 jersey.
In his 12 years stay at Bayern, Ribery proved himself as one of the most prominent footballers of his generation. Together with Argen Robben, he formed one of the deadliest crime partners in football history tagged ‘Robbery’.
“It’s beautiful that people call us ‘Robbery,’ it’s a great name. We immediately had a good feeling together, on and off the pitch. And we’ve won everything together. He’s a true professional, he’s a great role model for our youngsters. It hurts, badly. People will never forget what we’ve done together. It will remain with us our whole lives.” – Ribery
Ribery’s 12 years career at Bayern was plagued by a club record 24 titles which includes 9 Bundesliga titles(a bundesliga record), 6 DFB Pokal, 1 UEFA Champions League and 1 FIFA Club World Cup. He conquered hearts and minds at the Allianz Arena during his glittering career, notching up 86 goals and 121 assists in 273 Bundesliga games and a total of 124 goals and 182 assists in 425 career appearances for Bayern.
He called it quit at Bayern in the summer of 2019. And speaking in an exclusive interview with DW, he revealed:
“The Bayern jersey means so much to me. I’ve had a great time wearing it over the last 12 years. I’ve experienced so many emotions with Bayern. I’ve done my bit to get the club to where it is now, and Bayern have obviously had an influence on my development too. The relationship between Bayern and me is special.”
The 2013 Ballon D’or theft
Ribery hit peak form for Bayern in the club’s 2012–13 treble winning season scoring 16 goals and assisting 29 more. The feat saw him nominated alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the three-man shortlist for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or, an award Ronaldo controversially won. While lamenting the “injustice” of his failure to win the award, Ribery in 2018 told Canal Football Club:
“It was as if it was stolen from me, It’s incomprehensible. I won every trophy, I couldn’t have done more. It was an injustice. I didn’t have my whole country behind me. I saw with my own eyes French people who wanted Cristiano to win. Did the Portuguese want Ribery or Messi to win? Impossible. Do you think in Argentina they wanted Ribery or Ronaldo to win? Impossible.”
Ribery turns 37 today and still plays top level football at Italian side, Fiorentina. He’s scored 2 goals and notched 2 assists in the current campaign. He’s been a great survivor and motivation, Happy Birthday Franck Ribery!