The end of the match by Michel Drucker

Ten years ago, Thierry Roland disappeared. Michel Drucker had paid tribute to him in our magazine.

Always, Thierry lived and dreamed sport. For half a century, he began his days reading “L’Equipe” and fell asleep watching an NBA game or a boxing match. He continued the matches while he slept. Some men remain teenagers and keep their youthful passion intact. Thierry Roland was one of those dreamers.

He entered the RTF at the age of 18 – one of the youngest sports reporters in history – and went through the years, smiling, “L’Equipe” under his arm. Thierry’s passion for sport in general, and football in particular, was total, exclusive, devastating, obsessive. Football was his life. French football, of course. But also Italian, English (he spent part of his youth in England), Spanish, German, Brazilian… The globe was his football planet. This football geography so complex, he knew it inside out. Its calendar was punctuated by the World Cups, the European Championships, the Champions League and the Olympic Games. We do not say enough about the great specialist in athletics that he was. Methodical, maniacal: his files were always up to date. Like the children, he never missed a single Panini album and couldn’t stand being borrowed, without giving it back, a copy of his “Mirror Sprint” collection. A demanding pro. Behind his funny pirouettes, Thierry was shy, modest who hid a real Slavic sensibility – his mother was Russian. And his flowery language could not suggest that he had been brought up in an English college.

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Thierry loved life, without reserve. All the delicacies, cigars, cognac, good food, good Bordeaux, horses… Because he was a gambler and his accomplice Omar Sharif must be in trouble today, because they will no longer be spending weekends in Deauville, on other lawns. Above all, Thierry loved his friends and, first among them, Jacques Vendroux, Jean-Michel Larqué, Michel Platini and his surgeon, Jean-Pierre Fraioli, with whom he had fraternal relations. Fraternal is the term that best defines him. Thierry is one of the most titled reporters in history. I followed five of his thirteen World Cups alongside him, and he taught me the sense of organization and detail. Because, in the 70s, every detail counted and could be expensive!

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The France of the factories, that of the commercial coffee which did not have the means to pay for a place in the Park, vibrated while listening to him

The new generation, who comment brilliantly, cannot imagine the conditions in which we worked at the time. For twenty years, Thierry has shared his matches in the manner of the pioneers that we were: craftsmen of resourcefulness. These first broadcasts from the four corners of the world did not benefit from current technology. Three cameras at most when there are eleven today. Approximate slow motion. Imperfect connections with the famous rue Cognacq-Jay: frequent cuts in satellite beams. So many “white people” who gave the reporters a few sleepless nights. Without altering his life force. I want to keep his bursts of laughter, his titi accents and his youthful enthusiasm warm. Thierry’s laughter, inimitable, was the heyday of RTL’s “Big Heads” for a long time.

“Monsieur Foot”, was a voice

A laugh that could have been heard in a cafe, at the end of a well-watered victory for the Blues or in the fall of a Rabelaisian story of which he had the secret and which enchanted Philippe Bouvard. He was born that way. And his long career, since he had known the France team of 1958, led by Just Fontaine and Raymond Kopa, had not changed him. Private Roland made the glorious Swedish campaign at the age of 21. Pelé, who dazzled us, was only 16. Then Thierry rubbed shoulders with the magic generation, the Cruijffs, Beckenbauer, Platini, Zidane and, today, Benzema. Hundreds of players loved it. Our internationals, Alain Giresse reminded us a few days ago, considered that being commented on by Thierry was an honor. Reporter supporter, like Roger Couderc was the sixteenth man of the XV of France. But Thierry, “Monsieur Foot”, was a voice. The word that will always resonate in the memory of millions of French people. Listening to him, the deep France of the factories and the Café du Commerce vibrated in unison. Less favored France, which did not always have the means to pay for a place at the Parc des Princes, at the Stade de France, listened to Thierry in the cafes, in front of the windows of the merchants of television sets and on the squares of the villages, World Cup nights. Thanks to him, they were in the stands. We should therefore not be surprised at the wave of emotion that overwhelmed a good part of the country when we learned of his disappearance…

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