October 19th , 2002
Stade de Gerland, Lyon, France
The crowd roared. Juninho Pernambucano bends a free kick right into the top right corner of the net. Me, and several other players, sprint to celebrate with the Brazilian free kick master. It was my debut in the starting line-up that evening. I started because Mahamadou Diarra caught a case of food poisoning the night before. I was called to meet Paul Le Guen before the game. "Fethi," he said. "I know you're young, and you probably expected to sit this game out as well. Well – Mahamadou's sick, and you get to start instead of him. Good luck, kid." I was shocked. I rose through the academy ranks of Lyon rather quickly. I was a central midfielder, and my playing style was similar to Iniesta's. I dictated the tempo and held down the middle of the pitch. I was the first one out of many footballers that came out of Lyon's academy, with Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa breaking in the first team squad some years later. I scored the second in that game against Auxerre. I remember it. A daring flat shot right from outside the box. To the near corner. Fabien Cool wasn't ready for it. In a split second, the crowd was screaming again. I couldn't hear a thing. To this day, it still somewhat of a blur to me.
Two months later, I was placed on the transfer list. Le Guen didn't think I'm good enough for the Lyon squad and showed me the door. I wasn't waiting for too long, and I signed for Seria A side Brescia, who signed me for £1,200,000. My career in Lyon ended with 21 appearances and 5 goals to my name in just 18 months. The move to Brescia wasn't a bad move for me – I got to rub shoulders with Pep Guardiola right before he left to Al-Ahli. He taught me a lot about the game and I owe him for that. We both were an efficient combination. Two years went by, and by August 2006 I was a topic of interest for many clubs around Europe. I went on and signed for Real Betis that summer, for a whooping £4,000,000. Life in Spain was good. I clicked on with the rest of the team rather quickly and while we finished in the 16th place, we improved over the next two years and managed to stick to the 13th place. A year later, we were hit with relegation, and it was unexpected. I was out for the majority of the season following a broken foot injury that occurred in the first game of the season, and while I tried to help as much as I could, the shame of relegation lays on me as much as it lays on other, more involved players.
This was the time to move on, and Betis was looking to cash in on me. Olimpique De Marseille was willing to give me a chance, and I accepted their offer, moving in for £12,000,000. Partnering with Lucho Gonzalez and Mathieu Valbuena was a wonderful experience. We were a dominating trio, and we turned the midfield into a nightmare. My return to France was not really accepted by the Lyon supporters. I was mostly booed whenever we met, but still, I ended my first season at Marseille with a double. The Ligue 1 title and the Copa De La Ligue were in my pocket, and I was ecstatic. I stayed at Marseille for another four seasons, before retiring in 2014. 429 appearances, 41 goals, and 93 assists over the course of fourteen years. I wasn't a world class midfielder, but my name was known.
Now, it is time to take on the coaching course and find myself a team...