Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sex Scandal Trips Up Franck Ribéry

Football fans in both France and Germany have been shocked by the sex scandal surrounding Bayern Munich playmaker and French international Franck Ribéry. Amid accusations of lynch mob justice and a trial by media, the footballer may face up to three years behind bars if his case gets to court.

On yet another day on which newspapers published stories about his infidelity, paid sex and police investigations, 27-year-old Franck Ribéry sits lost in thought in the conference room at the headquarters of his football club, Bayern Munich. On the table lies the team's yearbook, called "Mia San Mia", Bavarian for "We are who we are."

"It's very difficult, when one, as a soccer player, is constantly in the spotlight," Ribéry says. He turns his head to one side. The large scars on the right side of his face, the results of a car accident as a child, are easily visible. Does he find the affair embarrassing? "I feel hounded and unjustly treated," he replies. That he was the one who erred goes unmentioned.
Franck Ribéry has been at Bayern Munich for the past three seasons -- but relatively little is known about the man behind the footballer. The Frenchman is one of the highest-paid professionals in the Bundesliga, Germany's top division. He's known as someone who can't be pinned down to a particular tactical style of play, an anarchist on the ball, a clown who smears toothpaste under teammates' door handles. He is also the husband of Wahiba Belhami, the daughter of Algerian immigrants, his childhood sweetheart for whom he converted to Islam and who watches all his games from the stands. The couple has two daughters. Ribéry's Muslim name is Bilal Yusuf Mohammed.

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