Les Ulis - Les Ulis is not a chic suburb of Paris but it
deserves a monument as a nursery of French football talent, after producing
Thierry Henry, Patrice Evra now Anthony Martial.
It could have been different for the Manchester United star
however as he prepares for the European Championship finals. A sign at the
entrance to the Janvier tower, the public housing block where the Martial
family lived, declares: "Ball games forbidden."
Now the district is a draw for football pilgrims.
"That's where Anthony Martial lived," said Gaye Niakate, a neighbour
who told of the regular visits. "Once it was three English journalists. I
had to pass the phone to my wife who speaks English," he laughed.
Martial has only been an international star for a few
months. "But we have been talking about 'Toto' for a long time,"
added Niakate, using the teenager's childhood nickname.
Niakate's brother, Mahamadou, is deputy sporting director of
the Club Ominsport des Ulis. "He was always way above the others,"
the club official said of Martial's rise. And CO Les Ulis should know.
Before Martial brought the spotlght on the club, it produced
French football legend Henry and Evra, who left Manchester before Martial's
minimum 50 million euro ($55 million) transfer from Monaco last year.
Martial, 20, played at Les Ulis from 2001 to 2009 before
signing with Lyon, then Monaco and now Manchester.
"I'm not going to say that I expected him to go so
quickly to such a club, but I am not so surprised," said Mahamadou
Niakate, sat in Les Ulis club house amid jerseys worn by some of the most
famous past players.
Also read: Martial strikes as Man Utd make Leicester wait
Martial is a "source of great pride for Les Ulis, an
example of success for the young," said the town's mayor Francoise
The footballer has kept strong links to the town, just 30
kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Paris.
He returned to Les Ulis to coach the new generation before its
annual gala on May 23. Patrice Evra -- who will also be at Euro 2016 -- was
also present and was the star draw. "Martial is young and has a long
career ahead of him," said Niakate.
- Football El Dorado -
But even the club's assistant sporting director cannot
explain how it produced as many stars with standing of Henry, Evra and Martial.
Yaya Sanogo, another product off the Les Ulis conveyer belt,
is at Charlton Athletic in England. Sega Keita is at Troyes in Ligue 1.
"That is the big question," he said of the club's
"There are football pitches everywhere in Les Ulis. But
then there is the quality of the coaches and the club's family side. Everyone
contributes and everyone knows everyone: the coaches, the players and the
But they all knew that Henry, Martial and Evra were special.
"The honest relations that we have with the parents
means there is a climate of trust and they don't go looking elsewhere."
Lyon made an accord with Martial so that he would not
negotiate with other teams, said the Ligue 1 side's recruitment chief, Gerard
"He was young so we let him stay at Les Ulis another
year with special training, especially for school."
Bonneau said Martial was surrounded by "an
extraordinary family atmosphere" with parents who were more worried about
the youth "than his future career."
Martial is the youngest child in a family of footballers.
One brother Johan is a defender for Troyes. Dorian, is captain of the Les Ulis
team in the regional league.
"When he was smaller he had a special character, there
was a lot of fuss," said Dorian Martial. "But our parents were behind
us with their strict discipline.
"We know that he is sensible and anyway, my father and
I are there to remind him about things."For
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