During this weekend, Espérance de Tunis will play in the CAF Champions League final against the Egyptian empire Al-Ahly. However, the Tunisians were only 5 minutes away from missing their comeback to the biggest stage of African football after six years of absence. It was one player, Anice Badri, who made sure it would not happen after scoring the winning goal for Espérance in the 85th minute of the second leg against the Angolan side, 1º de Agosto.
As Espérance wants to win this title for the first time since 2011, it seems that there is no better player than Anice Badri to lead them in this mission.
In a way, Badri’s football career reflects a story of many players born in France who come from African ancestry. French players who play for the national French team though their parents were born outside of France are quite famous. So are other players such as Aubameyang or Koulibaly, who are well-known world-class football players that were labeled from a young age as future French stars and chose to play for other countries.
However, Badri’s story is a little bit more complex and yet reflects the situation of many sons of immigrants who grow up as football players in France. His story has slight resemblance to another famous player’s story, Riyad Mahrez, only with less luck. Both come from Maghrebi families, both play as wingers and both played for lucrative youth academies in France and spent some time at the shadows of the French football before trying their luck outside France. However, while Mahrez has grown into a superstar, Badri’s story can teach us something about will and passion for football, even in hard times.
Born in Lyon and trained in its famous youth academy, Badri was considered as one of the potential future stars of French football already in a very young age. However, when Badri was 16 years old he suffered from a spinal disc herniation which has stopped his progress and prevented him from playing for almost one year, in a very crucial step of his career. Following the injury, Badri had to restart and develop as a player in a small clubs outside Lyon, before moving to the reserve team of LOSC Lille.
Following his period in Lille, Badri moved to Belgian club Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz and helped the club to gain promotion to the first Belgium division. In 2016 Badri was even nominated for the trophy of “The Belgian Lyon”, given to the best Arabic player of the season in Belgium. When he finally thought his career is finding its rhythm, Badri again suffered from injuries.
At this point, Badri decided to try something a bit different and instead of grinding in the outskirts of Franco-Belgian football, he decided to show his talent on the biggest stage Tunisian football has to offer, and he signed for Espérance de Tunis, the biggest club in Tunisia. Since his arrival there, his career has taken another direction, including two appearances in the World Cup in Russia for the Tunisian national team, and great contribution to the club’s success this year in CAF Champions league.
Badri is still very connected to his French roots, as he speaks French and not Arabic and prefers to eat Croissant over Fatayer as he himself admits. Maybe it is a coincidence and maybe not, but after two successful years it might not be surprising that in Tunisia, in a club that has hope in its name, Badri found a place where he can enjoy football and win himself some glory.