Book Review: 'Robert Pires Footballeur' - An Autobiography

Last updated : 17 March 2003 By Brian Dawes

There you would have witnessed that beautiful and mind-blowing goal when D'Artagnan, as Tony Adams named him, took down Freddie's killer through ball and beat Boeteng all ends up by flicking it over his hapless head. Rob carried on to chip Rudolph, the red-nosed racist, in Villa's goal for a sublime winner that in years to come you can tell your Grandchildren all about. It had class and intelligence written all over it. Should you have been fortunate enough to have seen much at all of our third Double winning season, you won't need me to tell you that Pires is a footballing artist, the like of which we haven't seen since another famous number 7 called Liam Brady was in the team at Highbury. If you were present at our Championship celebrations following the Everton game you'll remember the homage paid by the rest of the squad when they bowed on their knees before Pires in the classic 'we are not worthy' pose, something that should tell you how his fellow professionals regard him. You might even recall him being voted 'Player of the Year' by the Football Writers in that very same season, but these merely point to the quality of his play, by reading his book it's possible to find further clues of his intelligence.

His private life, despite his mention of the problems revolving around a serious accident to his good looking wife Nathalie and his obvious high regard for his Portuguese father and Spanish mother, remains pretty private throughout. Although a stable childhood in a loving family have clearly given him a solid rock on which to build and he's not ashamed to say so, he clearly knows where to draw the line between his public and private self. Robert's ritual of phoning his mother before every game underlines his appreciation of family and he gives credit where credit is due both to his relations and his various coaches but there are no titillating or graphic sensationalism's to be found in this volume. Not that that detracts from it's readability. Pires' progress through the ranks at Reims Sainte-Anne, Metz, Marseille, Arsenal and of course the Les Bleus shows a thoughtful, modest and rather grateful man pleased to be progressing at whatever particular level he'd aspired to at that point in time. Behind his modesty though there is always a strong sense of determination, dedicated focus and appreciation of the realities of life. His awareness of politics and their implications for example are probably not a universally common factor amongst Premiership players. The fact that he wrote a book at all shows he needed additional distractions during his long and tedious return from his 'knackered knee' as it is described by his English translator, and his attitude to this set back that denied him a deserved World Cup trip is both interesting and mature, as are his views on the politics between Club and Country.

It seems from reading the book that Real Madrid were also seriously chasing his signature when he left Marseille and it obviously takes an intelligent man to realise that to reach the peak of his profession Arsenal was the correct choice. Arsene Wenger clearly abetted in persuading Robert that he would progress further as an important cog at Highbury rather than as a highly paid benchwarmer in the Bernabeu Stadium. An even more conclusive sign of Robert Pires intelligence is his lack of an agent. The realisation that money isn't his motivation and his view that agents are less necessary than a decent lawyer to read the small print was both refreshing and encouraging. But for me the single most satisfying proof of our fabulous number seven's intelligence can be seen in the following quote: '.... the best fans in the world are still the Gooners who'll back us whether we're attacking of defending'. Top man!

I quite enjoyed the book, not as much as I enjoy watching Pires play of course but then that's hardly surprising is it? Despite the thirty or so colour photographs it contains of our current number seven, a number incidentally that helped Arsene obtain his very valuable signature, I have one major criticism. The price, because at £12.00 for a paperback of just 178 pages, which incidentally are printed in a rather large typeface it can hardly be described as great value for money.

Robert Pires Footballeur: An Autobiography
written with Xavier Rivoire and translated by Dominic Fifield
Published February 2003
by Yellow jersey Press price £12.00

Any decent bookshop will order it in for you if you quote the following reference number ISBN 0 224 06980 2

The Arsenal Fanzine stall, not far from Arsenal Tube Station in Gillespie Road, are selling this title on matchdays for £11.00 so check it out on your next visit to The Home of Football, or you can order on the web from Sportspages or Amazon