"When I look back on that fateful day, Pierre played, led and celebrated victory with panache, brilliance and elegance, like he knew it was his last night. He was an adorable man and the whole community remembers him with great fondness." (Diego Minarro)
Pierre Lacans was the Captain of Beziers, France’s greatest club at the time, and an athletic flanker who played for them between 1977 and 1985, and winning the French championship five times. A fabulous leader of men and immensely popular with supporters and fellow players, he had a very bright future ahead of him until tragedy struck. On 30 September 1985, Pierre was killed in a road accident at the tender age of 28.
I had struggled to contact anyone from Pierre’s family but Didier Codorniou and Alain Paco had both put me in touch with a man called Diego Minaro, the former hooker for Beziers in the early ‘80s and twice champion of France, and yet another magnificent human being who I met on my travels.
Diego and I had lunch before he drove me to meet Maryse, Pierre’s Mum, now aged 80, in Conilhac-Corbieres, in the deep south of France near Narbonne. This was an interview I was both nervous and keen to do. Nervous because I understood how raw the emotions might still be. The pain of course never leaves you. Keen because, from personal experience, I am always humbled by how some people can deal with their grief with such grace and dignity, able to deploy their own coping mechanisms so effectively. Pierre Dospital had lost a son too and he used his memory as inspiration and motivation on the pitch, talking to him and taking on the opposition together.
As we travelled to meet Maryse, Didier warned me that she would shed a tear too, and I reflected on a basic, unimpeachable truth: That we can protect our children from harm and they will always outlive us is every parent’s most cherished illusion.
It was a rendez-vous charged with emotion, happy memories and huge pride. Maryse was beautiful, elegant, stoical and inspirational. Meeting both her and Diego was one of the highlights of my travels.
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