Rio Antonio Mavuba : A footballer who was born at sea
Seeking the nationality of a player, the first thing anyone looks is the place of his birth. Sometimes it happens to differ from his nationality, and may have chosen the nationality of his parents or some other. Sometimes, however, things are more difficult...
For example, in the case of Rio-Antonio Mavuba, his passport writes : Birthplace: "Born at sea".
The Son of Ricky Mavuba (former international with the National team of Zaire -now Democratic Republic of Congo-), was born in a ship in international waters off the coast of Angola on 16 March 1984.
His parents wanted to protect their newborn child and escape from the civil war that plagued Angola.
Both of them had hard times living, but managed to recognized in France as political refugees.
They did not want to "charge" the soul of their child with a tragic history, so Mavuba has not much to tell, or maybe does not want to remember a lot...
"In my passport says 'Born at sea'. As for the rest, I do not ever talk about them. In fact I never wanted to know the history of our migration. What I know is that I was born on a ship, which secretly started one night off the coast of West Africa, moved by the beach and then followed the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula before reaching the French port of Marseille in March 1984.
I was born stateless during this long journey. My mother, Teresa, was from Angola. In this boat while crossing the icy waters of the Atlantic, my father, Ricky, gave me the name "Rio", which means "river". "
Of course, the little boy did not had the opportunity to learn many details of this story. His mother died when he was only 2 years old and his father at 12. Until then, however, despite the difficulties, they helped him to join the country, as well as his new family:
"Everything went well at Bordeaux where we lived. There are many different nationalities, mainly people from countries of South Africa, so the city is open to receive strangers.
Rio Mavuba: Born on the high seas, finds fame in Europe
For my mother it was more difficult to learn the language. SHe made French lessons and helped to her integration. She died when I was 2 years old and my father re-married, so i basically grew up with my step-mother, like my 11 brothers and sisters."
Mavuba devoted to football to overcome the loss of his parents. Bordeaux recognized his talent and 6 years later offered him the basic position in the line-up. His debut was in the match against Lyon in January 2004 and since then he has been constantly in the plan of his coach. Then, he was called by the French national team.
"The fact that I was called to French national team, definitely helped to accelerate the bureaucratic procedures to get citizenship. In September 2004, when I was 21, the French coach Raymond Domenech wanted to choose me for the match of France vs Israel. I had, however, to be a naturalized Frenchman to be able to play.
I was very annoyed. Fortunately, however, this whole view of my past by the media helped to "run" my issues after 20 years without citizenship. Now I'm like everyone. Sure I've lost a little individuality, my uniqueness, but my past is still part of me. Now anyone who sees my birth place, just laughing."
"The life of a refugee is very difficult. These people are forced to leave everything and go away on their own. They leave their families, their homes, their jobs, their friends, everything. They want to find a better life in another country risking everything and losing everything they have ... The number of deaths at sea is a real tragedy and indeed no one knows the real number.
I had this experience by myself and I know that sports is a good way to forget about these problems and to share something with others...