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You either loved or hated him

By unknown | May 10, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THOSE who saw Eric Cantona play football will tell you he would have been a wasted talent had he been a goalkeeper.

THOSE who saw Eric Cantona play football will tell you he would have been a wasted talent had he been a goalkeeper.

Yet, that's what the silky Frenchman had been asked to do at his first club, SO Caillolais, at the early age of six.

That was because his father, Albert, was a decent goal-minder in his day and this was seen as a logical step for the youngster.

Luckily for the world and football followers goalkeeping did not hold much appeal for Cantona and would have been a waste of his prodigious gift.

Cantona was an enigma.

Though he came to prominence when he played for English Premier League giants Manchester United in 1992, he had featured in several teams in his homeland and English team Leeds United.

With Cantona there was no middle ground - you loved him or you hated him.

Either way, he couldn't have cared less. What you saw is what you got.

He didn't have a normal childhood because he was carted away to Auxerre at an early age after his home-town team, Olympique Marseille, had apparently snubbed him. He and his "group of merry men" (as his team mates there were called) raised the bar at Auxerre FC and made it a team to be reckoned with.

His rise was so phenomenal that he seemed to outgrow most teams he played for.

He was supposed to carry the torch for France after the retirement of the Michel Platini group from the international stage.

But that was not to be as he got into so much trouble with officialdom that only a few of his coaches were able to rein him in.

He turned down an offer to rejoin the French team in 1996, retiring in 1997, a year before Les Blues were crowned world champions.

Talk of gone too soon! That's Cantona.

He was voted Manchester United's player of the century years after he had left the Red Devils, ahead of stars like George Best and Bobby Charlton.

The kung-fu kick he dealt a spectator in a game against Crystal Palace always comes to mind. But for football connoisseurs it is the arrogance, the goals, the skill and the raised shirt collar of the Frenchman's number seven jersey that made him stand out.


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