Posted in Les Bleus! The Path

Neuf: Keepy-uppies and hook-ups

“Three matches to go until Euro! Aren’t you excited?”

Patrice Evra asked as he led the team out to training practice. There was an unspeakable excitement within the French camp now that Euro 2016 was right around the corner. Fresh from beating Netherlands 3-2, Marcus told the team they must win their next three games ahead of the tournament kick-off. The coach had chosen his final 23-man squad with difficulty but France did not make it easier. They wondered why he was taking Olivier Giroud instead of Hatem Ben Arfa. André-Pierre Gignac instead of Alexandre Lacazette. And what about Nabil Fekir? Didn’t he deserve to be at the Euros? Marcus never justified his decision to the public. He had smirked at the journalists at the last two pressers when they tried to bleed the information out of him.

“Yes, but can we talk about Coach for a second?” Olivier Giroud pushed his way ahead of the group and pointed at Lucas Digne and Paul Pogba. “They think we should hook Coach up.”

“What?” A few of the older players echoed in surprise.

“We just thought that maybe Coach needs a girlfriend to keep his mind occupied other than on football,” Digne sheepishly tried to justify his decision in hooking the coach up.

Bacary Sagna threw his hands in the air. “I am not hearing this,”

But Evra wanted to hear more. “Do tell, what brought this on?”

“Well, back in Spain, Antoine said some reporters were going on about Coach’s antics by the sideline and they suggested that he needs a girlfriend to calm him down some.”

Pogba shrugged. “I told him it wasn’t a good idea.”

André-Pierre Gignac shrugged. “Well, I know someone who’s interested in dating him.”

Pogba thumped Digne on the back. “I told you it was a great idea!”

“Except that, it is not,” Giroud argued. “Coach is taken.”

“How do you know this?” Lassana Diarra asked.

Giroud shrugged. “I just know,”

“How could you just know?” Anthony Martial asked.

Hugo Lloris put a stop to the bantering. “This ends now. We have practice and I don’t think the coach will appreciate us interfering with his love life.”

“Yes, father,” Giroud and Digne echoed causing their captain to take a playful swipe at them.

“We’ll ask Ray if Coach is married,” Pogba whispered to Giroud, who nodded and followed their captain onto the training grounds where spectators had their devices out, shouting in delight at the show before them. The team was in for a pleasant surprise to see the coach going at it with Séan Garnier, the best freestyler that France had to offer.

“Coach freestyles?” Dimitri Payet was surprised.

Mamadou Sakho shook his head. “The man just keeps on surprising us!”

The team looked on as Marcus flipped the ball over Garnier’s head and onto his chest causing a major uproar. When Marcus noted his team’s presence, he stopped with his showboating tricks and thanked Garnier for stopping by. “Guys, come say hi to my friend who is head and shoulders above the rest.”

While the team greeted the freestyler, Pogba and Giroud looked out for Ray, who was nowhere nearby. When Garnier walked over to the spectators to take photos and sign autographs, Pogba addressed the coach. “Where is Ray on this fine afternoon?” he casually asked.

Marcus squeezed the water bottle he was drinking from and squirted water at the cameraman who was trying to get too close for his liking. “He’s a little unwell. He’s in his room with a slight fever.” He shooed the man off and turned to address his team who was now staring at him as if it was the first time they were seeing him. He was attired in blue shorts and a plain short-sleeved tee, clothes they’ve never seen on him. He usually coached in long sweats and long sleeved shirts.

Perhaps he was the one feeling unwell and not the brother.

And he had tattoos!

A Japanese love symbol on the left arm, a flaming fleur-de-lis on the inside of his left hand, and an awesome Polynesian tribal band armband on his right bicep. The boys looked down expecting more art, but he was wearing trainers with white socks. They looked back up simultaneously and grinned at their now scowling coach.

“Are you done inspecting me?” Marcus folded his arms and defiantly stared them down.

“Yes, but are there more tattoos?” Benoît Costil curiously asked.

Marcus ran a hand through his untamed springy red curls. “Yes,”


“No, I am not going to show them to you. We have training and if we keep standing around, we wouldn’t be getting anything done.”

During practice, Pogba found himself doing keepy-uppies with Marcus and was tempted to ask after his love life, but Giroud and Jallet were shaking their heads no at him from behind Coach’s back and making cutthroat gestures. It was not the right time. When the session ended, the players went on to greet the fans signing autographs and taking photos with them. Marcus left them to it and took Séan on a tour around Clairefontaine.

Later that evening when Ray finally zombie walked out of his room, Giroud, Pogba, and Digne crowded him. “Ray! We missed you at training and the activities today.”

“Coach said you were sick.”

“How are you feeling now?”

Ray weakly smiled. “I’m okay now, Giroud, Digne, and Pogba. Thanks for caring.”

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Pogba asked as they followed their assistant coach into the now cool, but slightly chilly air.

“Yes,” Ray brandished his iPhone at the boys. “I just need to call my wife.”

Digne and Pogba gasped, but Giroud smirked in triumph. “Told you!”

“Told them what?” Ray’s was curious now. “And who is them?”

“Digne and Pogba here think it’s such a wonderful idea to hook Coach up.” Giroud folded his arms still smirking at his mates. “I told them that Coach is taken.”

“And how do you know this?” Ray asked.

Pogba chuckled. “See, Ollie, I told you he isn’t taken.”

“Oh, he is taken all right, but how do you know this?” Ray demanded as he mirrored Giroud’s stance and pose.

Giroud shrugged. “Coach doesn’t look like a man who spends his free time alone.”

Ray nodded as he held up his phone once again. Marcus was extremely private and protective when it came to his family like most Frenchmen.

“Dart!” Digne slapped his thigh in defeat. “A friend of a friend is interested in Coach and I told her that I’ll try to hook her up.”

Ray burst into laughter. “If Marc hears this he’ll have a cow. You guys should be focusing on the next game, not on Marc’s love life. It’s fine.”

“What about yours?”

Ray swiped the screen of his phone and held it up for the boys to see. His screensaver featured a voluptuous woman with long curly voluminous chestnut brown hair, a small black mole on the right side of her shapely kissable mouth, which was shaped in an ‘O’ and blowing a kiss. Her eyes were the color of warm cognac.  She was wearing a white strapless dress that reached mid thighs showing off her thick, shapely legs. Giroud, Pogba, and Digne leaned in even closer to make sure the woman was real.

“Um, can I hold your phone for a minute or two?” Giroud asked.

Pogba couldn’t tear his eyes away from the phone. “Dang, she’s lovely! Are you sure that’s your wife?”

Ray nodded.

“Is she even real?” Digne asked.

“I don’t Photoshop my photos if it’s that you’re asking.”

“Where is she from?” Giroud asked.

“She considers herself a child of the world. She was born to a Romanian woman, but her father is Japanese and she has Lebanese heritage as well.” Ray fondly smiled at the screensaver. “She’s the love of my life. She makes me better.”

The boys looked at their assistant coach then mischievously at each other. “Awwww…” they teasingly synchronized causing Ray’s cheeks to turn scarlet.

“Can I have some privacy now? I need to call my wife.”

The boys bid him good evening and walked back inside.

“That’s the most exotic, sexy combination I’ve ever encountered!” Pogba exclaimed once they were out of earshot. “Do you think Ray’s lying, though? Do you see how thick she is?”

Giroud laughed as they walked up the stairs. “I don’t know, but I do know one thing: Ray is a lovesick puppy.”

Digne paused halfway up the stairs and retrieved his phone from his jacket. He started typing almost immediately.

“Something the matter, Lucas?” Giroud asked.

“Just texting my friend. Someone is going to be disappointed that Coach is taken.”

Les Bleus went on to win their warm-up matches against Russia and Cameroon, in which Dimitri Payet put on a delightful show for the footballing world. After his wonderful display, the media wanted to know the coach’s thoughts to which Marcus simply replied, “I told you that Payet was love and love is Payet during my last presser, but you weren’t listening. He’s a special playmaker. Mr. Bilac is doing a great job with him at West Ham and his confidence is skyrocketing. He’ll be the one to look at during Euro. Don’t you guys ever listen?” he asked, patience slowly slipping away.

Before he could join the camp, Varane suffered a left leg strain and it made Marcus’s blood boil. Varane was supposed to be at the tournament. He called Adil Rami up much to the surprise of the nation. He immediately put Rami in the match against Cameroon alongside Laurent Koscielny, but their wavelengths didn’t click. He knew their partnership needed some time to gel, but in his heart, he knew he could count on them. The media asked about the fans booing Giroud as he alighted off the bus prior to the game.

“Apparently, some Benzema fanboys and girls decide to come down and hold a mini protest. Booing Giroud? The French do not deserve nice things, but I like the fact that he screws his haters on the pitch.”

And just because they can, they asked, “What do you make of Zidane winning the Champions League?”

“Didn’t Real beat a lot of Europa teams to reach the final? Zidane should be thanking Rafa. All he did was swooped in and picked up where Rafa left off. When Zidane has a full season with Madrid, feel free to ask me that very same question next year.”

“What the hell is your problem with Zidane? He’s a legend, man!”

Marcus’s eyes locked on the frustrated journalist who dared. “And what the hell is your problem? You’ve been asking questions which don’t pertain to Les Bleus and the Euro and when I answer you honestly, you think I’m a hater. I don’t care if Zidane is a legend. Don’t ask me about him if you don’t want to hear my blunt responses.”

“Mr. da Díxon, what about the slanderous comments Eric Cantona made about your reason for leaving Benzema and Ben Arfa out of the team?”

“Eric Cantona is like a water container except that the liquid he is storing inside isn’t water. When he’s finally empty, he’ll sing another tune.”

“Are you accusing Cantona of being intoxicated?”

“Isn’t Cantona accusing me of racism against a certain ethnic group? Water containers shouldn’t talk with holes in them. If you’ll excuse me, we have a flight to catch to Austria.”

A few minutes after the blunt French coach left the conference, a journalist with black inky hair and a lip piercing wondered out loud, “Did he just indirectly call Eric Cantona a water boy?”


^ I was not going to touch on Eric Cantona’s accusations against Deschamps given that their hostility goes back years, but someone asked me to write it in for they wanted to see how Marcus handles such accusations.




My heart simply beats football.

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