For a while the boy – now 23 years old, and whose identity is being withheld to protect his privacy – kept the messages with him. He knew he was lucky, chosen among a group of two dozen boys who live and train at prestigious locations at France’s National Training Center in Clairefontaine, arguably the world’s leading football finishing school. He knew that Clairefontaine was the launching pad for dozens of top French professional players. So instead of speaking about the disturbing messages, the boy did not say anything to his teammates, coaches or parents.
In 2012, something went wrong on a bus ride. The squad of talented teenagers was usually in an upheaval mood. They were making fun of each other when one of the players, Tiago Escorza, picked up his partner’s cellphone. The 23-year-old Escorza told the boy, recalling the instructor’s messages that he loved her. His response was to burst into laughter – and then to read the message to the rest of the players.
“We all said to him, ‘Is he your father or what?” “Heidi Mehnaui, a goalkeeper who was present. Just entering her teens, she said in a recent interview, they were not mature enough to understand the messages that the message might have on the boy, or from San Jose. The pass can be any purpose to send them.
But, Mehanoui said, he now remembers his friend talking about leaving the academy. “He never really explained why,” said Mehnaui, who was the boy’s roommate. “They kept everything for themselves, so I didn’t ask too much.”
A few months later, the boy’s mother also became aware of the messages. Switching to a new cellphone he bought his son, he discovered a text from San Jose.
Her husband was angry about the message, he said, but he was also dealing with a serious illness, so he decided he would be about to face San Jose personally. He did so with a letter, handing it over to Clairefontaine, who instructed him not to send any message to his son or be alone with him under any circumstances. She said that San Jose disarmed her in her culture, saying she had a Spanish background – it was her daily routine to say things like “I love you” to people outside her own family.
The case may have ended, but during regular evening inspections, listening to the conversations conducted by the two watchmen responsible for overseeing the team. He was shown messages – forwarded to two other boys – which he was told were written by San Jose. According to one janitor, “I’m fed up that it’s always telling me that I love you”.