In an absolutely extraordinary piece of sports journalism, France’s premier paper L’Équipe exclusively interviewed a woman who claims to have been the victim of repeated domestic abuse at the hands of an active Ligue 1 footballer.
In early February “Miriam” (her name has been changed) contacted L’Équipe, saying that she was the victim of repeated physical violence from an active footballer, of whom she was the partner. At the time, she didn’t have the mental strength to report him, but now, she would at least like to tell her story.
“I knew he hit his new girlfriend, even while she was pregnant,” she confessed. “I know this because every time this “someone” (how she refers to the player) would hit her, she would take the train to her father-in-law (the player’s father), with whom I’ve stayed in touch. I contacted you because I worry he might kill someone…”
Over the course of multiple meetings, she tells the story of of the forms of physical abuse she and other women were confronted to from this player. After initially deciding to do this openly, she changed her mind, at least for the time being.
“Maybe someday, I’ll speak to a judge.” she said “But, I’m scared for my son and me because he’s really dangerous.” In the meantime, L’Équipe published her anonymous account of the events, after having done the necessary background research and confirming what could be confirmed.
How did you meet this “someone”?
We met in (says her home town in Africa) when he would play with the national team. Four years ago, he offered for me to come live with him in France. He took care of the paperwork and I came to the city of the club where he had just signed. And then we began living together.
When did he become violent?
When I met him, he was adorable. But as soon we began living together, I saw he wasn’t very stable and that he was violent. That’s when he started hitting me. It was difficult to believe when seeing him like that. With me, he was jealous and could change personalities at any moment. Anything could set him off… he always looked for an excuse to hit me. Plus it wasn’t just little slaps. He would punch me in the stomach, in the face, everywhere…
Plus, I was entirely dependent on him financially because he refused that I work. Whenever my girlfriends called to hang out, he thought they were trying to introduce me to a new guy; he was paranoid. I had no more friends. The thing is with violent men, is that you get a lot of gifts, but you’re not happy because they isolate you and close you from everything. And then, after getting hit, they’ll deny everything. In September 2015 for example, three days after brutally hitting me, he offered me a new car (showing pictures) as if nothing had happened.
How do you explain his sudden change in behaviour?
He changed a lot because of the money. He became arrogant, didn’t respect anyone anymore, and thought that he could do anything. Gradually, his friends distanced themselves. Even his “aunt” (actually, the mother of the player’s best childhood friend) was shocked by his change in attitude. Yet, at the time, this “someone” was playing in a French youth academy and his father, would hit his partners, would whip them at home, and she (the aunt) would take them in. He listened to him a lot. Today, he doesn’t talk to him anymore.
Did he hit you often?
It would sometimes happen three times in a month. Once, he told me, “let’s go for a drive.” When going through a period of jealousy, he wanted me to give him my Instagram password. Because I refused to do so, when driving down a road with plenty of turns, he drove at more than 200km/h, unbuckled my seatbelt while covering the latch with his hand. I had a panic attack in the car. Another time, in April 2015, I lost consciousness. We were on vacation in Paris in a hotel near Gare de Lyon (train terminal in Paris) and he hit me in the hotel room. When I woke up after suffering multiple hits, he was seated next to me.
The receptionist knocked on the door and said, “Sir we’re going to call the police, the neighbours are complaining.” But as usual, in a pleasant tone, he responded “No, it’s nothing, my wife was just getting jealous.” And every time, they believed him. Yet, when I regained consciousness, I couldn’t breath. At Salpêtrière hospital (hospital in Paris), the nurse immediately understood. I had bruises on my body, but because this “someone” was present, I told them I’d been harmed by somebody else. The nurse made him step out, slipped a document into my hand saying that I was in a bad state, and told me that “if you decide to report this, drop this off with the police.” I kept it for a year, till the day he destroyed all my papers.
Did he get sexually violent?
Yes. When he would see me cry after having hit me, he would come close to me, apologise, then force me to make love to him. I fought it, but I think that it turned him on. When it was done, I continued to cry in my corner.
Why did you never report him?
I never reported him because I was very much in love with him and I wanted to protect him, and his football. I hoped things would change, that he would marry me, have a baby with me…. So, when I would bleed from my nose or mouth after getting punched, I would sometimes tell the nurses that I fell in the bath-tub. Yet, I suffered so many things because of him… Today, I realise that I could have died.
Did the police never intervene?
The police stopped by many times because of the neighbours’ complaints and they say saw me in a horrendous state. But, in that city, they were very accommodating. They would ask for my permission to take him away, and because I always said no, they would respond “next time, we’ll take him away.” But they never did.
Seeing as you never reported him, did you ever feel like running away?
Yes, in November 2015. But I learned that I was pregnant. So he called his aunt and told her that he was scared that I was going to have an abortion and go back to my country, and that he would change. His mother and my mother spoke on the phone and said “You’re going to have a child, maybe he will change, so forget about the abusive incidents.” I said ok and stayed with him. I wanted to leave every time, but I would always come back to him. But that was also because of his fickle character. He could be charming, nice, do anything I wanted, give me many things, apologise.
And then the next minute, he could become violent. He would make me happy, then beat me, then out of nowhere say, “I want to have a child with you,” then not be able to deal with me when pregnant, then he would beat me… I never knew when this stuff would happen, so I was always stressed. I even became a bit hysterical, and couldn’t recognise myself! But I told myself that I would wait to give birth to my child in good conditions, and then leave.
Did he ever hit you in public?
Yes. In February 2016, when I really decided to leave him. I packed my things and left for the train terminal and escaped. He arrived, and, in front of everyone, emptied my suitcases. I was four months pregnant and he hit me multiple times. Unfortunately for him, the cameras got footage of the incident. I was crying and I was running after him to get my wallet. When I came back, multiple police officers surrounded me and said “Miss, are you alright? We saw that he hit you and we recognised him.” Yet, I responded “No, no that’s not him.” For forty five minutes, they tried to convince me to testify against him, but I didn’t want to say anything. So that incident was kept quiet.
Was his club ever made aware of this?
No, all of his coaches and teammates never saw his violent behaviour because, on the outside, this “someone” came across as shy and reserved. When he would practice, he was direct, normal and had no relationship with his teammates. We never went to parties for that matter. He would train, play and come home. When you see him “at work”, you couldn’t guess who he really is.
To your knowledge, did he showcase violent behaviour towards other women?
Yes. At the time, he had a child with another girl who was living in one of his big houses. I actually realised that he was living a double life (showing a photo of the woman on Instagram). One day, sometime between March and April 2016, when I was more than five months pregnant, he said, “I’m going to see the little one”. Then no news for hours.
He was actually arrested by the police that same night, for having beat the son’s mother. She had fainted by the time the ambulance came. The paramedics then called the police who took this “someone” to the police station. I went crazy. He wanted me to call his lawyer. But because our arguments were often violent, he ended up breaking my phones (she changed phones so often that she often lost numbers), and I couldn’t find the lawyer’s number.
I ended up meeting him, and we agreed that the club shouldn’t be made aware of him being held in custody (24 to 48 hour period in France). The lawyer convinced the girl to withdraw her request to press charges. I heard that this “someone” gave her money. The next day, he left the police station and the club never found out because we had said that his absence was because of a family problem.
Did he ever stop hitting you?
In early June 2016, a month before the baby was born, he said “I spoke to the pastors and they told me that child you’re having isn’t mine.” Yet, he acknowledge the baby at city hall four months before it was born (showing the birth certificate with the name of both parents). But because so many women want to have children behind the player’s back, he only has that in the back of his mind. Because I felt that he was angry, I stayed with an acquaintance.
Later, she brought me back home. When I opened the door, this “someone” was there, with the mother of his child and a friend. He pounced on me and started to hit me. My friend wanted to help me, but this someone’s friend prevented him. I yelled, “You’re going to kill the child!” to which he responded, “I don’t care, it’s not my child.”
When they left, an ambulance transported me to the hospital. Upon my return the next day, he put all my things in trash bags and tore up my paperwork (showing pictures) I didn’t know anyone and I was going to give birth in a month. Luckily, another one of his aunts took me in. The baby was born in a hospital (in another French city). Today, he says the child isn’t his, and he refuses to take a DNA test.
My lawyer told me that the paternity test will pay off (done in December 2017). But I don’t even want to anymore… I give up. I don’t want this “someone” to have any relationship whatsoever with my son and me. I want to go back to my parents (in Africa) with the little one, and try to start over.