Jean Francois Imbernon

The Ursine Giant

"In 1982, the dwarf (as I used to call Jacques Fouroux) telephoned me while I was in my bistro down the road, and asked me to come back and play the last game against Ireland. I told him I wasn’t fit but he wouldn’t take no for an answer asking me: ‘Can you walk? Well you’re selected then.’ I turned up in Paris but threatened to leave because it had got serious and they were told to follow strict diets - no wine or cheese or red meat, only grated carrot and healthy stuff. At the dinner table that night, Jacques had set me a special place with my name next to it, alongside a plate of cheese and bottle of red! What a manager he was."

If Jean-Francois Imbernon were a bottle of red wine, he would be big, tannic, rustic and warming. Here is a giant of the Catalan people, a true product of his region and a very kind-hearted man. We met on a cold winter’s day right outside the Stade Aimé Giral in Perpignan. He is huge with a gravelly voice whose accent allows you to fix his origins immediately. He puffed heartily on his fag before we had lunch where we spent 3 hours discussing his Catalan origins and reminiscing about the stories and characters of the old amateur era.

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