x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Life Lessons: Marcel Desailly

The retired French football star Marcel Desailly shares his thoughts on the path to success ahead of his visit to Abu Dhabi for the Laureus World Sports Awards.

Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

The retired footballer Marcel Desailly, 42, was one of the stars of the French side that won the 1998 World Cup and the Euro 2000 championship. He will be at the presentation ceremony of the Laureus World Sports Awards at the Emirates Palace on Monday.

1. Sport really has the power to change the world. The former South African president Nelson Mandela said that at the first Laureus awards in 2000 and it is true. I feel we are at a new frontier for sport here in Abu Dhabi, especially for football. Through the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which has 80 projects around the world, we have been using sport to improve the lives of young people.

2. Stay humble. When you reach the top of your game, whatever field you are in, it is very hard to stay there. You need to continue to work hard. The most difficult thing in sport is to maintain the same level. When you have humility, you are open to messages from the coach and are willing to be there for your teammates as a collective. They are more likely to help you and your performance will be better.

3. Respect your roots. I am originally from Ghana and live there now, but was brought to France at the age of four by my stepfather, the French consul in Ghana, so I am also French. The orphanage I have worked with in Ghana since 1999 reunites children with their relatives. It is important to me to put something back into the country where I was born.

4. Have a role model but remember to be your own person. My idol in sport was the Argentinian player Diego Maradona. It is good to have a focus and a champion in mind for your goals but you also need to have the capacity and confidence to kick away their image to express your true self. Work hard to be the best you can be.

5. Discipline is everything. You need discipline, whether in sport or in the way you live your life. The way you treat your body affects your ability to perform.

As told to Tahira Yaqoob