Migrant story scripted on a stadium
Why Mauritius and Andhra celebrate a French World Cup debutant
PUNE, JUNE 18:They aren’t celebrating in Vishakhapatnam yet but maybe they will in a few weeks, when Vikash Dhorasoo’s international career finally gets set to take off. The French midfielder has so long lived in the shadows of Zinedine Zidane—they play the same role for the French team—but Zizou’s retirement after the World Cup opens the way for him.
In fact, he’s already created history, becoming the first footballer of Indian origin to play at this level by turning out against Switzerland last week. ‘‘He told me it was a very special feeling,’’ his mother Nalinee told The Indian Express from Paris, where the family lives.
Though Dhorasoo himself has never spoken too emphatically about his Indian roots, saying only that he would like to go to India but ‘‘not as a tourist,’’ his mother had no such qualms. ‘‘We originally come from V-sha-ka-pat-nam,’’ she said, spelling out the word with a heavy French accent. ‘‘My grandparents lived in Andhra Pradesh.’’ They were taken to Mauritius to work on the sugar plantations, and that’s where Nalinee met Vikash’s father Manduth who worked as a plumber on the Britannia Sugar Estate.The family moved to France in 1970, where Vikash was born three years later. His childhood was spent in Le Havre, Normandy, and he grew up in a neighbourhood called Caucriauville where he learnt the sport on the spaces available between buildings. ‘‘He was, I think, about nine when he went to play organised football, though studies was equally important,’’ Nalinee said.
His steady rise through the ranks, with Lyon, Bordeaux, AC Milan and now Paris St-Germain, not only brought him to national attention but also dispelled the notion that Indians are genetically not predisposed to football at the top levels.
‘‘He is a good boy,’’ says legendary French coach Guy Roux. ‘‘His technique is very good, his passing is beautiful. Not that good in defence but his attacking skills are good.’’
Roux was coach at Auxerre for 44 years before retiring last July, taking the club from the regional Burgundy league to being French champions and his famous academy producing stars such as Eric Cantona and Djibril Cisse. Dhorasoo might have been another. ‘‘He was in my office in Auxerre as a young boy,’’ Roux said. ‘‘He spent two hours with me. We tried to sign him but he didn’t join.’’
What does he see in Dhorasoo’s future? ‘‘Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll play that long for France because he’s 32; if he was 22, that would be different, he would have a long international career ahead of him.’’ Was he unlucky in being around the same time as Zidane? ‘‘Perhaps,’’ he says with a shrug.
Was football on his mind right through? ‘‘It’s in the family... his father’s side. In fact, both his father and uncle played football.’’ While Manduth played a role in shaping his football career, perhaps the greater influence came from his maternal uncle, Sama Sanassee. Speaking from Port Louis, Mauritius, Sama sought to downplay his contribution. “Ah! I was no professional like Vikash, you know. I played for a village called Lasalines in Port Louis as a youngster, nothing more.”
Yet Dhorasoo’s World Cup debut against Switzerland last week was celebrated in Mauritius (and, on the Net, by Telugus and Mauritians everywhere).
‘‘He made us all proud,’’ said Vanishree, Sama’s daughter. ‘‘We knew he was talented since he was associated with big clubs, it was only a question of when he would hold centrestage. A debut—even if for a limited period—in the World Cup almost makes us feel like we are part of Vikash’s biggest dream.’’
Has she spoken to him? ‘‘No, I haven’t but my dad (Sama) spoke to his dad (Manduth). They congratulated each other, after all it was a family thing, you know.’’
Vikash last visited Mauritius two years ago, Sama recalls. ‘‘It was a time when most of us Sanassees got together.”
Was he interested in his roots? ‘‘The interest to know his family roots is a common feature in these reunions,’’ Sama says.
So what is Vikash: French, Mauritian or Indian? “Vikash was born in France,” Sama begins.
‘‘He’s married a French girl,’’ he says after a pause. ‘‘It’s like his mother (Nalinee) who hails from an Indian family... all of us speak and understand Telugu, but were born in Mauritius.”
In football’s flat world, perhaps it really doesn’t matter.
Courtesy: Indian Express