The man often rated as the best left full back in the world Patrice Evra will be the new France captain with Thierry Henry accepting a place on the substitutes bench for the World Cup campaign. Evra captained his country for the first time in the recent 2-1 defeat of Costa Rica in a warm up game. Former skipper Henry has been out of the side since leading France in that controversial play off win over Republic of Ireland.
Coach Raymond Domenech has given preference to Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka over Henry with the Barcelona striker accepting the decision to keep him out of the side saying “Yes, the coach came to see me. He said to me I wasn’t going to start the games in South Africa and I accepted” When the Manchester United man was given the armband Evra told his country “I’m really proud to be the captain. With talent you win games, but you can only win a tournament with a great team”
The French website L’Equipe recently ran a poll which revealed that 70% of the voters believe Evra to be the right man to lead the country in South Africa. Most of his team mates also seem to support the decision with Lyon midfielder Jeremy Toulalan believing that “He’s in the right mood and has the will to gather everyone”
Quite apart from being handed the captaincy, Evra is also happy to be back in Africa even though he has not forgotten the racist abuse he received in his native Senegal. When Evra leads France against Uruguay in Cape Town on Friday, the United defender will have no regrets at having decided to overlook the country where he was born in preference to representing France at international level.
“I grew up amid a Senegalese culture at home” Evra said “but we became westernised very quickly and when I had to choose between playing for Senegal or France my father told me to follow my heart”
“I opted for France, as that was where I had grown up but I then came in for lots of abuse in Senegal” he remembers “I was called a monkey who grovels before the white man and labelled a money obsessed traitor to the nation but my parents helped me get through it. I had not been back to Senegal since the age of 10. I have still not returned. It is 19 years now and I need an incentive to make me go”
That abuse in his younger days has not prevented Evra from being proud that the tournament is being held in Africa for the first time. “I have two wishes” he admitted “I want to win it for France and hope it is a huge party for football and all Africa with no security problems”
The new French captain then revealed that he also has a wish to give his Dad a special gift “I often talk about the World Cup with my father. He is now 81 and badly asthmatic. He says seeing me lift the World Cup would be the greatest present he could have before he goes to heaven”
Will Evra make a good captain at Old Trafford in the absence of Neville and Ferdinand?