Bafétimbi Gomis: “I have principles”

In an extensive interview with L’Équipe 21, Swansea’s French striker Bafétimbi Gomis discussed his current situation at the Welsh club as well as his prospects for the French national team.

On the possibility of playing for France again…

I have become selectable again. At the age of 30, you see things differently. My priority is to perform well for my club. I have always believed in myself. I still believe in myself. The 2014 World Cup is one of my regrets (his non-participation).

Especially because I left the French national team during a conflict with my old club (in 2013). But it is important to have principles. I have them. And I did not want to demean them, I was ready to lose the French national team.

Do you accept that football is merely one big business in which you have to be able to accept knocks, but also accept to give them as well…

You have to love it, football. And I, I love football. But it is a huge soup of which a fair amount of people are eating, and that is something that people should not hide from.

What is difficult to handle as a footballer?

We are young. We are human. There are problems, often, for example, when we ask a youngster to go to school when he is already earning more money than his teacher. To explain that to a youngster who is 15, that is not easy. That can disrupt the order of things. There are also cases where there parents lose all control over their child because he is already providing the family with their (financial) needs.

But you paid, yourself, the bills (at home)…

Very quickly, yes. My mother was a housewife, my father worked in the public works, the family was big (10 children). I had to help my parents, with the club St Étienne. But that did not stop my father from continuing to do the work he had learned to do. I have only one regret, that is not having put 100% into my school work. My father had a real go at me for that.

There are obviously conflicts in life. Why, did you at one moment or another, not say to your father: “Stop, you are nice but it is I who will pay the bills, so you stop (working).”

Before paying the bills, my father fed me for 14 years, even if it was his role. He took the bus with me, he did not have a driving permit, but he accompanied me everywhere, he bought my shoes even though it was not easy. Me, my dream, when I left Toulon for St Étienne, I fulfilled it: it was to buy my parents a house. That was my only aim. To see my father climb nine floors after having worked all day, to travel home on a bike because he did not have a drivers licence… Sometimes, there was urine in the lift where he was stuck. It was very difficult.

Several years ago now, you started to study for your Bac (French A-levels equivalent) again. Why was this important to you?

I did not pass it because there was the birth of my little one and then the conflict with Lyon. It was important to re-centre myself on the essentials. But I continued to take classes. I stopped school at the troisieme (year 10), I had missed out, I had regrets.

What are the gaps?

We want to be able to exist, to be more than a simple footballer. When I started, I struggled to express myself in interviews. I felt ashamed, inferior.

Was it also important vis-a-vis your parents, who don’t know how to read and write?

Yes, you have to understand. My father did not have a great education and it was difficult for him to help me with my homework, during my first classes. When you have to wake up, get up at 6 in the morning, come home very late; when on top of that you have a lot of children, it is hard. I understand my parents.

They gave me the opportunity of being born in France. That is an opportunity. My father was born in Africa, he could not go to school, he had to work to help his family. When I had the chance to go to Senegal at around the age of 15, 16, I knew that I was going to succeed…

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