Patrice Evra: “I don’t want children to live the way I have for so many years” | football

FOr decades, Patrice Evra couldn’t cry. When he watched sad films, the former Manchester United and France captain did not feel much. When his friends and relatives died, his eyes dried up. If something amazing happened, like winning the Champions League, he would be smiling outwardly, but on the inside, he was numb. “I was a robot,” he says.

When others showed emotion, he was not sympathetic. One day, while playing for Juventus around 2015, he remembers seeing one of his teammates.

I passed by him and said, ‘What happened? “It wasn’t like he got bad news about someone dying,” Evra says. “I said, ‘Why are you crying?’ And he said, ‘I’ve seen this movie four times and every time I watch it I cry.’ I was like, ‘Wow.’”

Evra told one of his teammates, who announced this to the rest of the players. “Everyone laughed. I regretted it,” he says.

Since then, the 41-year-old has grown up – and let himself fall apart. Last year he spoke publicly for the first time about being sexually abused as a child.

Evra was 13 years old and living in the principal’s house because his house was too far from his new school. The teacher would make his way into his bedroom at night and touch him under the covers or force him to have oral sex. I didn’t tell anyone. Evra wrote in his autobiography, Love This Game, published in October, I was too ashamed to talk to my mother and didn’t know if anyone else would believe me.

The footballer will speak this week at the #ENDviolence conference, a UN-sponsored event aimed at ensuring children around the world are better protected from abuse.

Patrice Evra tries to beat Mo Farah (left) during the Soccer Aid match on Sunday at the London Stadium. Photo: Matthew Childs/Action Images/Reuters

Along with speakers including French President, Emmanuel Macron, and actress Ashton Kutcher, Evra will speak publicly about his experiences and call on global leaders to take action.

Speaking via Zoom from a hotel room before the conference on Tuesday, he’s thoughtful and candid. He wants to talk about the abuse because it matters to him. He wants governments around the world to enact legislation to ensure better protection for children. “We need to reach the highest people,” he says. “It’s easy to campaign but we need laws.”

He adds advisory notes that he had prepared in advance: “I was so shocked to see that spanking was banned in England…we haven’t done it yet. But they did it in Wales, and in Scotland they did it. Children deserve protection all over the world. So this is my purpose in life. He did it. I want to change things.”

For Evra, who was born in Senegal and grew up in France, the journey from football “robot” to speaking openly about his own trauma has been bumpy.

In the past few years, he has been engaged and welcomed baby Lilas, who is now one year old. His partner, Danish model Margo Alexandra, whom he called “the woman of my life,” helped him open up by making him feel “safe,” he said.

But he is not sure that he would have become so weak if he was still in the world of football. Among his teammates, talking about feelings and difficult times was not a sign of strength. “It’s that toxic masculinity,” Evra says. “People aren’t that open. And once you show that you’re human, that’s when it’s like: ‘Oh, we can’t go to war with this guy.'”

Before announcing his mistreatment to the public, Evra was nervous that people’s perception of him would change. He also felt guilty. Years earlier, when he was 24, he got a call from the police asking if he had been abused by the principal, but fearing the consequences, he didn’t want to admit it.

Patrice Evra and partner Margo Alexandra in London last month
Patrice Evra and partner Margo Alexandra in London last month. Photo: Leah Toby/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

“Some kids complained about this guy and the police wanted to know if he tried to do something with me,” he wrote in his book. “Because I was famous and worried about the reaction, I lied and said no. They asked me if I was sure and I assured them I was. I lived with that lie for many years. I can’t tell you how much I regret it.”

And he felt ashamed. Was: “What will people think of me? They see me as a strong man, as a leader, as a leader. When my teammates know, what will they think of? “

For years, rather than allowing himself to open up, “the way I handled it was I had to shut down all my feelings,” he says. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t show if I was very happy. I don’t want the kids to live the same way I’ve lived for so many years.”

It was only after retreating from elite sport – when the potential potential effects are less – that he was able to speak out.

“It is something that has to come from yourself; not because someone pushed me.” “For me it was because I was watching a pedophilia show. [Margaux] I saw my face change and said, “What’s the matter?” And I said: Nothing. She said: Come on, we don’t lie to each other. What is the problem?’

Then I opened myself up because I felt safe. I felt like I couldn’t lie. You didn’t force me. And we had this conversation. That’s why I say: “It’s hard to open [up]. “

So far, looking back, he’s not sure that speaking out while he’s playing would have served him well. “I was thinking to myself: ‘Will Patrice now – where he’s more open and emotional and feeling – succeed in the same way that she did as a robot? “With this robot, with this machine, winning was all that mattered.”

Patrice Evra with young players from the club who started his career in Les Ulis, in 2016
Patrice Evra with young players from the club who started his career at Les Ulis, in 2016. Photo: Frank Fife/AFP/Getty Images

To encourage more reporting of abuse, and to reduce stigma, it’s not a matter of simply telling victims to speak up, Evra says. Rather, it is about educating people and creating an environment in which they can speak out. The same goes for encouraging footballers to appear gay, and to be open about other personal things, he says.

But that doesn’t mean it’s straightforward, or that everyone will accept it right away, he says. I can promote [homosexuality] “Because I don’t follow any book,” he says. “I just follow myself. I follow my heart. But I think we can’t be too harsh with people who say, ‘I can’t because of religion’ or whatever.”

“It’s really difficult. For example what happens to the player with PSG,” he adds, referring to an incident involving Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gaye, who allegedly refused to play in a match to avoid wearing a rainbow symbol in support of LGBTQ+ rights. . “He didn’t want to wear that shirt, you know. But that doesn’t mean he’s against it. He just doesn’t want to promote it.”

He says that football problems are problems in society. “I always say we want to point the finger at football or something. But society. It’s about education. No one is born as a racist. It’s not a child, I wake up and I’m racist.

However, since retiring from the sport, he has discovered a life outside the “bubble” of football and the “toxic masculinity” that he says surrounds him. “A lot of people said: When you stop football it will be difficult. You will be depressed. But in reality I am more happy than ever. I am free. I am not in this box. I can do everything. If I want to be Seriously, if I want to be a clown, if I want to motivate people. This is life. I can be who I am.”

Patrice Evra at Atletico Madrid before the February match against Manchester United
Patrice Evra at Atletico Madrid before the February match against Manchester United. Photo: Ash Donelon / Manchester United / Getty Images

Most of the time, being whatever means being a joker. On Instagram, he’s earned 10 million followers and cult status among young fans for his hilarious videos, from Monday’s motivational clips to videos of him impersonating Tina Turner and petting a raw chicken. “Before, all managers were against social media,” Evra says. “So I won’t be able to make all these crazy videos.”

It’s so relentlessly positive online that even racist trolls are bored. “If someone puts in a banana emoji, I like: ‘I love bananas,’ and they delete it immediately,” he says. “When they send the monkey I say: Send the gorilla. The monkey is fragile. The gorilla is strong. And they deleted it.”

In addition to giving him more comedic freedom, “retirement” allowed him to let his guard down. Although he’s “busier than ever” at work – from campaigning to appearances on BBC Freeze the Fear – he’s less uptight. He spends his free time at home with Margaux, playing board games, changing diapers and cooking dinner. “I am a family man,” he says.

And he cries a lot – even about the little things. Previously, if I cried, I immediately thought: ‘No, what are you doing? But Margot was like, ‘No, you have to give it up. You have to open yourself up. Anything you have inside your chest you have to leave because it will burn you.”

Today, if he saw his Juventus colleague crying in a movie, instead of teasing him, “Patrice would now be like: ‘Oh, let me watch the movie and let’s cry together,'” he says. “I can cry.” [from] happiness. I could cry if I watched a movie. It is not soft. This is how I learned. My parents and people love the men around me, crying is a sign of weakness. but not. Crying is a sign of strength.

Opening up about abuse in particular has been healing. He tries not to dwell on the aggressor. ‘When people talk about this, I don’t even know that person’s face. I don’t know if he’s still alive, if he’s dead. Someone asked me, ‘Do you hate this person?’ I said no.’ Actually, because in my heart I have no hatred. Do you want that person to be arrested? Yes, but not for me. To make sure he doesn’t do the same things he did to other kids.”

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But he says withholding it over the years has been devastating. “[Speaking out] It made me realize that for several years without opening myself up, it had killed a lot of my feelings. Lots of my feelings.”

He does not want to be known as a “victim”, or to be seen as a “brave” or “hero” to share his story, as some have described him. But he hopes this will encourage someone else to take steps toward reporting the abuser. “They might think: ‘If this player, the captain of this team, opens himself up, I can do it,'” he says.

Since his book was published, people on the street have called him and thanked him for talking about his past, and said they had been abused too. “My mother always said: The more you give the more you take. And the reactions I got from people on the street were: ‘Thank you,'” he says.

It made me think: ‘Wow, Patrice. It was good to kick the ball. But you can do more than that. “

In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support for rape and sexual assault at 0808802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808801 0302 in Scotland, or 0800 0246991 in Northern Ireland. In the United States, Rainn offers support at 800-656-4673. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800737732). Other international helplines can be found at

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