- Marvin Tshibuabua plays in defence for France’s U-17s
- Starred against Haiti in front of his watching parents
- The French take on Australia in the last 16
The teams who qualified for the last 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™ with a game to spare all took the opportunity to rest players in their final group matches, France among them. In selecting his side to face Haiti, Bleuets coach Jean-Claude Giuntini made seven changes to the line-up he had sent out against Korea Republic in their previous match. One of the players who came into the team was central defender Marvin Tshibuabua, who spent his side’s first two games on the bench but cannot be described simply as a “substitute”.
“No, there’s no such thing as a substitute in this team,” the Saint-Etienne player told FIFA.com. “There are players who play a bit more than the rest, and the Haiti game was an opportunity to give them a rest. We’re a close-knit team of 21 players in which everyone has a role to play.”
Tshibuabua’s role against Les Grenadiers was a significant one. Flawless at the back, he won the penalty that gave Les Bleuets the lead, after being fouled in the box.
“We all played important parts,” he said modestly. “I’m just a link in the chain. I got the penalty at a corner that one of my team-mates had won. And then another of my team-mates took the penalty. That just shows you that it’s not just one player who’s involved in scoring but the whole team.”
Judging by the celebrations that have followed each of the six goals that Les Bleuets have scored in the competition it is hard to argue with the 6’3 (1.90m) centre-half, who is also the oldest member of the squad. The scorers of those six goals have each run to the touchline to celebrate with the subs.
“It might sound like a bit of a cliché to say this, but our strength lies in the fact we’re a team,” said Tshibuabua. “Everyone knows they can rely on each other. We’re a family.”
As far as the young Frenchman is concerned, nothing is more important than the family. Sacrifices are made for the family, oceans crossed for it, which is why it came as no surprise to see his mother and father in the stands at the Estadio Serrinha in Goiania last Saturday.
“It just seems normal to us to be here to support our son and his team,” said his father Benjamin, who has travelled to Brazil all the way from Lyon with his wife. “After all, it’s not every day that he plays in the World Cup.”
Like father, like son
Flying thousands of miles to see your son sit on the bench for France’s opening two games at a World Cup would be a source of frustration for many a father, but not for Benjamin Tshibuabua.
“There’s competition for places so you expect that, and I know he’s happy and content in this team,” said Tshibuabua Sr. “We’re here to win the World Cup. It doesn’t matter whether my son plays or not; the important thing is that we become world champions. You need more than 11 players to win this trophy; you need a whole team.”
“He’s my son and I am so proud of him, whether he’s on the bench, on the pitch or anywhere else,” said his mother, Mado, wearing her son’s France shirt. “He’s doing his job and I’m delighted he’s doing it well. I’m just like any other mother: I don’t like it when he gets kicked, I feel bad for him when he loses, and I’m happy for him when he wins.”
That generosity of spirit and self-sacrifice obviously run in the family. “I’m really touched they’re here,” said their son in response. “They’re planning to stay in Brazil through to the final, which is motivating for me. I don’t want to let them down.”
Given his attitude to life and that of his parents, there is little chance of the towering centre-back doing that.