In Fougères, in French Brittany, what they remember most about Eduardo Camavinga It’s not his football, but his kilometric smile. “We are glad to see that in Madrid he does not lose it, it is his hallmark and he looks very happy there”. This is how they speak in their town of this talent that until just eight years ago was jogging through the green fields of this town of just 27,000 inhabitantswhich is seen today two days away from being European champion as a madridista.
The imprint of the precocious French international and new Madrid sensation in this area is enormous. Fougères is a point 331 kilometers from Paris that has an imposing castle, the largest in medieval France and still standing with thirteen towers, alleys that inspired visitors to the cultural fur of Balzac and Victor Hugoand also in a few kilometers around two fields of different teams baptized with the name of Eduardo Camavinga.
The arrival of the midfielder in Fougères was a relief for his family, Eduardo had been born two years earlier in Angola as a refugee from the war in the Congo, but once his life was saved, it was time to earn it. “His family is not afraid of hard work, his father, Celestino, did it in a nearby slaughterhouse”, tells this newspaper Michael Linhoff, president of AGL Drapeau-Fougères, right now in the Fifth Division of French football. Mama Sofía insisted that Eduardo go there so that he would stop destroying things in her small house, which belongs to social services. “As soon as we saw him, we knew he was special”, recalls Linhoff, who as an inspiration has given the name of Camavinga to the team’s new sports city. The madridista went to inaugurate the first field in 2020, when he was already a star at Stade Rennes (they signed him when he was 11 years old) and Deschamps had made him debut. Although the Breton club wanted to prohibit him from attending to avoid COVID, Camavinga insisted. “He’s like that, he’s not worried about the number of followers, tattoos and stuff, I’ve never heard him swear or say a bad word… He’s the best example we can set for our boys”.
Linhoff’s pride comes out of his pores for attending the birth of a star (“He came to train every day even though he was only 8 or 9 years old, he was always clear about what he wanted”) and because that star has not been dazzled by the success. “You know where it comes from. He always jokes that when he retires he will come to Fougères to train the team and we will pay him with apple juice”has a laugh. “As a child I drank them all the time and I think we can afford them!”.
The club’s sporting director, Pierre Yves David, shows us the field where Camavinga began to jog, and he was proud of Madrid by his grandfather (“He was a madridista by Raymond Kopa”) and by Camavinga. Like him, his countrymen. More Madrid shirts than Rennes are seen in the training camps and screens will be set up at the AGL Drapeau-Fògeres facilities to watch the final. Camavinga will have his town, his birthplace, with him.
The fire in his house foreshadowed his irruption
From the ashes of a small house in Lécousse, where the Camavinga family went to live as soon as they managed to save money, to Villaviciosa de Odón, where they now live, many things have happened. But that experience When everything that Eduardo and his parents and siblings had burned down in a fire ten years ago, it seemed almost like an omen. Not because of the bad, but because the AGL Drapeau-Fougères and the town turned to the Camavinga soccer boy. “We help them by organizing a collection of clothes, food, toys and anything else that could come in handy”recalls for this newspaper Nico Martineis, today a coach at La Chapelle-Janson but then responsible for Eduardo’s football education.
“As soon as we saw Eduardo for the first time, we knew he was special”
Michael Linhoff, president of AGL Drapeau-Fougères, the first club from Camavinga, in AS
An impulse of solidarity in which Papa Celestino saw a sign. More than once he has reported that he told his son: “You are going to be the salvation of this family”. Today it is, with buts. Not because of him, but because its people are working class to the core. His brother Sebastiao works in a hairdressing salon in the center of Madrid as one more salaryman and the people of Fougères say that the dream of Celestino Camavinga (who was a bricklayer before emigrating to France) is to build a house with his own hands, have something of yours from scratch. Perhaps, meanwhile, the family can be aware of another footballer. The youngest, Celio, points ways and is in the quarry of the DUX of Thibaut Courtois. “They say it’s very good, like Eduardo or better”, says Bernard, one of those workers for everything who has spent half his life at AGL Drapeau-Fougères. He met Eduardo at that same age, “when he was that tall,” he gestures, lowering his right hand a lot. “I’m glad the Camavingas are doing well, they’re good people”.
So does Martineis, who has not lost the bond with Eduardo. She shows it in her own body, addresses the young footballers of his club wearing the current Real Madrid tracksuitand recently he was in Madrid, for the first time, invited by the footballer himself to the Clásico. “If I ever find out…” he says with a laugh. When he called Camavinga to inaugurate the field with his name on it, the madridista spent four hours playing with the children and did not leave until everyone had a photo. This Saturday, Nico will go to the Stade de France to clothe his ex-pupil: “I wouldn’t miss it for anything, it’s going to be a historic day”.