By MELA KATONIVUALIKU Photos by JONE LUVENITOGA
FOR the past 13 months now, former Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) assistant coach Christophe Gamel has been coaching our national soccer team. Why would an assistant coach for a leading French football club want to come and coach our “Bula Boys”?– a label that Gamel used that has stuck with his team. Basically because the 45-year-old Frenchman says he always loves a challenge and coaching our national soccer team is no easy feat. Gamel lives by the late Nelson Mandela’s inspirational words: “I learned that COURAGE is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The BRAVE man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who CONQUERS that fear.” Although not a fluent English speaker, Gamel managed to share his story with maiLife despite his busy schedule last month. “Please bear with me,” said Gamel, and for more than hour told how he was born in Meaux in France and grew up in a housing estate similar to Suva’s Raiwaqa Housing. “These high rise flats in a notorious area back in France. I was an only child from a poor background and I grew up in a flat. I lost my Dad when I was very young. He used to build roads while my Mum, who is part-Italian, was a clerical officer in a small company.” Gamel’s late father made sure his son went to school and always reminded him the importance of getting an education.
“I am grateful now that my Dad made me understand the importance of getting an education and my Mum was just an amazing woman, I owe them a lot,” he said. “I am living proof that with nothing much, I could work hard to be where I am now. “Even though I was an only child, I grew up with my cousins in our small flat and my parents supported us all in our education. “Despite losing my father and the struggles my Mum went through to put food on the table and get us to school, I had a normal childhood.” Gamel said he had people from different ethnic backgrounds as neighbours in the high rise flats. “It was here that I started playing soccer and my passion for the sport grew. I didn’t know my childhood days were preparing a pathway for this life I am living now.” Gamel’s love of the sport has taken him places all over the world, but it has come at a price. Constant travel and time away from his wife and 7-year-old son has cost Gamel his marriage. “I am currently separated from my wife who lives with my son in France because of the time I spend coaching and travelling. They prefer a stable environment compared to my nomadic one.” “I still talk to them over the phone and make video calls and my wife is doing a good job looking after my son – and I miss them.” Gamel played soccer at a semi-professional level but
Fiji soccer coach Gamel shows off his soccer skills.