Commentary

The Adams family, an amazing French love story

French soccer has been taking it on the chin recently. Its best forward, Karim Benzema, has been suspended from the national team, pending a criminal investigation into charges he took part in a scheme to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena. Michel Platini, the greatest player in its history, has been suspended by FIFA for eight years in connection with a suspicious payment of $2 million he received on the eve of FIFA president Sepp Blatter's reelection in 2011. But Off the Post will today focus on a French soccer love story, a love story that survived tragedy and has endured for 33 years

Piers Edwards of CNN recounts the last 33 years as Bernadette Adams has cared for her comatose husband, Jean-Pierre Adams. Adams' career was just ending as Platini's took off in the mid-1970s. France commonly fields a majority team of players with ties to Africa and the Caribbean these days, but the Bleus had few black players in the 1970s.

Adams, born in Senegal but adopted and raised in France, formed with Marius Tresor, later a star on France's 1978 and 1982 World Cup teams, the "Garde Noire" -- "Black Guard" -- of French soccer. Adams did not have the skill of Tresor, arguably the greatest French defender ever, but he had a successful pro career at five different clubs after debuting as a pro at the age of 22 at Nimes.

Adams' marriage to Bernadette in 1969, a year before he turned pro, was unusual.

"At the time, a black man and a white woman being together wasn't well-regarded," she told CNN. "But we began to live together and then decided to marry. I wrote to my parents giving the news, the wedding date and an invitation, and my mother invited us to dinner. After that, everything was fine and he was seen in a better light than me: 'Jean-Pierre, Jean-Pierre' -- they only spoke of Jean-Pierre!"

Tragedy struck in March 1982, less than a year after he retired as a player, when his oxygen supply was cut off during knee surgery. It turned out the hospital was on strike the day he went in for surgery, and the operation proceeded even though it was not urgent. The anesthesia procedure was botched as the staff was overworked and ill-prepared.

Jean-Pierre suffered cardiac arrest and went into a coma with catastrophic brain damage. After 15 months in hospital, it was suggested that he be moved to a long-term care facility, but Bernadette chose to bring him home, where she has cared for him ever since.

She bathes him, shaves him, changes him and turns him over. She feeds him -- all soft foods -- and helps him go to the bathroom. He cannot move, but he breathes on his own and can digest his food and open and close his eyes. Jean-Pierre's room is just off the kitchen so he is always around the family activity.

Bernadette is now 72, five years older than Jean-Pierre, but she still spends all day almost every day caring for him in their home she built, "Mas du bel athléte dormant" ("the House of the Beautiful Sleeping Athlete").

"I say he doesn't understand my words," she told CNN, "but there might be moments when he has a flash. Perhaps for an instant, just an instant, he understands something."

Bernadette fought with the hospital and it took seven years for the case to be resolved and four more for compensation for the hospital's negligence to be calculated. French soccer has developed a reputation for being dominated by prima donas in and out of trouble, but it is a very tight-knit community, not unlike American soccer, and it rallied around the Adams family.

Former clubs gave donations, as did the French federation. The French soccer press regularly wrote about Jean-Pierre Adams to keep his plight in the news. The late Victor Sinet described Adams as "the prototype of a modern-day midfielder. He was always available, omnipresent and just as effective going forward as he was defending."

For more than 40 years, the Variétés Club de France has served as a touring all-star team for retired players, journalists and celebrities. It travels the world, showing off its former stars, having a good time and playing a little soccer. In 1987, it played three games in California. Its most recent trip abroad was last year to Mongolia, where it won, 4-2, thanks to four goals from former French star Robert Pires. It used to be allowed to enter the French Cup, but now most of its games are for charity.

VCF, which has raised more than $4 million, is now run by Jacques Vendroux, a famous radio personality who was born the same year as Adams was and began his career the same time Adams turned pro.

"We've played five or six games over the years because we knew that Bernadette was in financial and psychological difficulty," Vendroux told CNN. "Jean-Pierre was someone very appealing and deserved help. He is still alive and that is amazing."

2 comments about "The Adams family, an amazing French love story".
  1. beautiful game, January 5, 2016 at 5:43 p.m.

    Amazing story.

  2. Paul Roby, January 7, 2016 at 1:30 a.m.

    Truly.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications