17-year-old Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga chose Ouest-France to give his first extensive exclusive interview to as a professional footballer.
What was your childhood like?
I am a third child, I have a brother and a sister, older, a brother and two sisters, younger. We lived in Fougères. My father, Celestino, would get up early in the morning so that we could eat, he worked at Abera (a pig slaughterhouse at Saint-Brice-en-Coglès). My mother, Sofia, stopped working following the birth of my third sister, then a few years later, she went back to doing little jobs here and there. I was 12 when we moved to Rennes, I was in school, 5eme (Year 8 in the UK). Then, I wouldn’t see my father much during the week. Sometimes, he would stay in Fougères overnight because to make the journey again and again was difficult. But I did not need too much help at school, I would do my homework by myself.
What about your grandparents?
I never saw them because I was very little when we left the country (Angola) and I have not yet had the opportunity to return there. But I know them, I speak to them on the phone. One day, I will return to the country, that is definite.
How did you start playing football at a club?
I wanted to do judo, but my mother did not want that because I was breaking everything at home playing with a ball, so she put me in football so that I could enjoy express there (instead of in the house!). With my mother, we would always accompany my big brother, Sebastio, to school, because at the time he liked to fight (laughs).
In any case, my mother put him in judo and I would go see him, so at one point, because he was my big brother, logically I wanted to do what he did, judo. But my mother put me in football, so. And Sebastio would come to watch me too. The pitch was just next to the house. I would walk to football, with my mother, Sebastio and my friends.
What did you break, do you have an example?
We had a balcony and with a hard ball, I broke a coffee table. I really don’t know how I did it (laughs). I went straight to my room to hide, as a reflex, despite the fact that I was alone with my mother in the house! She scolded me when she saw it (laughs)! I was a little rowdy one (smiles). My younger brother, Celio is 3. We play together all the time, I tackle him! I am going to force him to play football. But we play outside, we don’t break anything. Now, I am more careful (smiles).
What do you remember from your 1st club training session?
I remember it very well. My mother told me the day that she signed me up in a club (Drapeau de Fougères), I didn’t know it was happening. It was a Wednesday and she had bought me some things in the morning. When we arrived at training with my mother, we went to the side of the pitch to speak with my first coach. My mother led things.
As she had signed me up, I thought that I would be immediately part of the club and that there was no need to speak with the coach. So at one point, I ran towards the pitch, there were youngsters my age who were playing. I took the ball, I don’t know why. Everyone wanted to take the ball back from me, I dribbled past a few players and then there was a fence and I shot over it, the ball went out. Just like that I had killed their game (laughs).
Did you enjoy things immediately?
I have always liked football. Even when my brother was doing judo, we would go and play in an “area” with friends, we played football often. Very often even.
At home, did you watch a lot of football?
At that time, I would watch player styles on YouTube.
What do you remember of the match where you were playing in two generations above yours with Fougères and from that Mathieu Le Scornet, current assistant to Julien Stéphan, moved to sign you for Rennes?
I remember it perfectly. It was at Paron Sud. We got smashed then! (0-3, but Rennes would usually win these matches by eight or nine goals) Everyone came to see us. I switched between left-back and centre-back. Since that day, Mathieu wanted me to join Rennes. He spoke with my coaches and my parents. And then, he said to me: “Would you be ok to come and do a tournament with Rennes?” I couldn’t believe it. Rennes was a big club. It never made me scared, but I never felt better than others either, never. What followed, was that I played with Rennes and I was taken on. That’s all.
As a child did you support Rennes?
Yes, always! When I was little, I even came to watch a Rennes match, it was with AGL-Drapeau Fougères, I don’t remember which match, but there are even photos! In one of them, I have the Rennes flag in my hands, already (laughs)! I liked Yann M’Vila and Jonathan Pitroipa a lot.
One of your first coaches at Fougères, Nicolas Martinais, told Ouest-France in May 2019 that the house built by your parents at Lécousse was burnt down, that the mayor rehoused your family in another house and the day when the furniture had arrived, following a call for donations, your father said to you: “Eduardo, you are the hope of the family, it is you who will raise us up.”
It is true that my father said that. But me, when I was little, I was carefree. I did not necessarily take what he said seriously, as seriously as he had said it. Me, at the time, it made me laugh. I was 10. With time and with the ability to hear my mother speak about it again, I have understood that it was truly serious, very serious.
I remember very well when he uttered this, Nicolas Martinais was there. At that moment, things weren’t going very well for my family. We had lived for less than a year in the house that my parents had built.
I remember the fire like it was yesterday. I was at school and through the window, I watched firefighters pass-by. At the time, I didn’t make the connection. At the end of the day, the teacher came to see us, me and my little sister, and said that our house had caught on fire.
Next, my father came to get us and we went to see it. I saw the damage with my own eyes, the house burnt… On top of that, my room was on the upper floor and that was the floor that had burnt… I lost my things. My parents, they were able to recover some things from their room, which was on the ground floor.
At what age did you know you wanted to become a professional footballer?
Before joining the youth academy, I was truly playing for enjoyment. I had always wanted football to be my job because I loved it so much, but it really became serious when I joined the youth academy.
What did your parents say?
I never told them. It just came naturally. My performances on the pitch allowed for them to like the idea of me becoming a professional. But I never told them that my dream was to become a professional footballer. They, having come from Africa, were not able to have the same education that they might have had, had they grown up in Europe. So their desire for the trajectory of my life, was that I studied well so that I could have a normal job.
What family values do you practice the most on the pitch?
The value of work. I like to run for my teammates. If I do not work on the pitch, my mother will be in my ear. And my father too. They, to have what they have today, they worked very hard. Even during difficult moments, they have worked a lot to meet what we needed. So it is just normal, my turn, to work a lot. In any case, without work, I would not be where I am today.
What advice do your parents give you?
My mother says to me all the time not to be scared on the pitch, otherwise things will go badly for me when I come home (laughs). My father is a real believer and he says to me all the time to not forget to thank God, that it is thanks to him that we are here today. At all the matches at the Roazhon Park, the whole family comes.
In line with the prophecy that your dad made, do you think that you have raised your family up?
No, not yet. This is a good start, but there are still other stages. I have other ambitions.
Raising your family up, for you, does that mean being able to provide your parents with a house, one day, to compensate for the one that burnt down?
Raising my family up is not merely material. Today, my parents are happy, but I want to make them even happier. The way I was raised, happiness is not uniquely linked to material things, it is certain things together, a holistic balance.