Reynald Altema, MD
A lithe young man five feet seven inches tall gifted with strong thigh and calf muscles as well amazing control of his feet was named Jean Poto but universally called Bèl Mèvèy due to his acrobatic skills and successes on a football field. Dribbler and prolific scorer, with swashbuckling demeanor to boot. His signature goals, lobe and fè twalèt (sliding the ball in between the keeper’s legs) invariably caused pandemonium. He was also known on occasion to taunt a rough opponent after a wonderful dribble. This style of play was bèl mèvèy and by extension, its architect carried the name. His antics on the field caused frustration, angst to rivals but regaled his fans and garnered rave reviews.
Oh yes, the fans, the other part of the equation in a football game. On the sideline, smart-alecky comments leading to arguments resulted in isolated fisticuffs, veering to outright wholesale fights and dreadful voye biswit leta (stone throwing) to deliberately stop a game their team was losing. Hence Bèl Mèvèy was loved by many fans and many others loved to hate him for his exploits out of jealousy.
Summertime was his favorite as it afforded him the proper forum and adulating crowd to showcase his talents as center-forward for the neighborhood team, Vol 404, during the regional tournament. A constant menace was the resentment of rabid fans of losing a home game to a team with showy players. That was considered a war declaration. In spite of this danger or because of it, the allure of extracting a victory at the lion’s den with one’s virtuosity in full view added to the panache and helped establish the mystique of one’s reputation in sports.
Reputation in football travels any distance. Another star was a goalie, Jocelin, in the next neighborhood, a tall and lanky dude with awesome upper body strength and a braggart in his own right. With an uncanny ability to stop shots, he used to claim, “A player hasn’t proven his mettle unless or until facing me.” His team, Les Éperviers, was also in the tournament and has not had any goal scored against it six games running. Jocelin and Bèl Mèvèy were engaged in a game of one-upmanship and trashed talked about each other. Both were considered demi-gods by their respective fans. No man dared go into either neighborhood wearing insignia, team colors of the opponent.
Such was the background animus between the two teams as they were preparing for their derby. That Saturday was propitious for such a game. Following brief morning showers, the rest of the day was breezy with low humidity, bringing respite to recent heat wave. Game time was 4PM but respective fans began assembling and chanting under their teams’ flags at 3PM. Vol 404’s was black and white with an airplane in the middle. Les Éperviers’ was yellow, featuring three black hawks with prominent claws.
The game had an important cachet. Two styles of play were clashing. An all-out offensive team with a star center-forward with the most goals scored versus a storied goalie behind a stifling defensive unit. The winner was assured the eventual trophy. Even more importantly, bragging rights for superiority of playing style were in the offing. Les Éperviers were at home and a loss was not an option. A large banner in front of the field was displayed with a quote from Jocelin, “The forward who can score against me has not been born yet.” Inflaming passions further, a banner from Vol 404 with a quote from Bèl Mèvèy, “I haven’t met a goalie I can’t beat,” was not allowed to be unfurled with a pretext of no available space.
Fuel having been added to the fire with such unwise partisan decision, chanting reached fever pitch when Vol 404’s fans began bellowing with gall in an impromptu, “Jocelin will lose his virginity today.” Fighting started right then and there and it took some doing by local notables to bring a semblance of calm so the game could start. Like a powder keg, a tense atmosphere needed just a slight spark for a meltdown. Testosterone levels were at their zenith and manhood on steroids was percolating on both sides. The bold chant against Jocelin was considered an affront that needed to be settled one way or the other.
The game itself was fought hard with lots of fouls being called. Bèl Mèvèy was especially targeted and had two players assigned to him and to stop him by any means necessary. The initial polarization grew worse as time went on. People were watching two different games. A flagrant foul committed against Bèl Mèvèy was scorned by his fans and applauded by Jocelin’s. Frequency and intensity of such fouls made a foul environment even more combustible. Like the game within a game. Cheering and jeering begat a deafening roar. Without bleachers, watching the game was an ordeal for some. Absence of a score also kept people on edge. Tight defense by Les Éperviers was unnerving.
The strategy worked for the better part of the first half but barely five minutes close to intermission, Bèl Mèvèy had a breakout and put on his one-man show by dribbling all comers. In the long-anticipated showdown, Bèl Mèvèy and Jocelin were the last men standing. Every onlooker was craning his neck for the cliffhanger. Jocelin, like an imposing and jealous stallion protecting its turf or its darling filly, came out of his lair rushing to tame the daring and intruding buck. Next in a picture-perfect segue of athleticism, reflexively, Bèl Mèvèy gently lobed the ball over Jocelin’s head, but he unexpectedly pulled a spectacular back flip trying to catch the ball. What a maelstrom of a move it was except it was futile as the ball nonchalantly hovered in the air like a wind-aided dry leaf, rolling effortlessly into the corner of the goalpost and landing ever so softly against the net, rebounding on the ground as if in slow motion but in rapid succession in real time. The very same climax imagined by his fans. Dénouement was fast and furious.
First Bèl Mèvèy’s fans swarmed the field, hoisting him like a trophy, parading him and resuming their prophetic chant about Jocelin. Enraged Jocelin’s fans took matters into their own hands literally to settle the score as it were by resorting to voye biswit leta to stop this nonsense and along the way creating a stampede. Stone throwing, like mosquitoes in flight, an unbridled and misguided affair with actions and consequences gender and target neutral. It can be started by anyone and can land anywhere and hurt anybody.
Unfortunately, none other than Bèl Mèvèy received a blow to the head and passed out immediately. When he was taken to a local hospital a few hours later, he was pronounced dead. Of course, no one claimed to have been the purveyor of the fatal rock. A cloud of doom and gloom descended on all and it has yet to dissipate. All because of a game. In a very fitting example of good sportsmanship, Jocelin came to Bèl Mèvèy’s funerals to pay his dues and stated, “Jean Poto should have been a national treasure and didn’t deserve this. His style of play was phenomenal and will be etched in the deepest recesses of my mind.”
To this day, when a player is evincing such skillful play on a field, it is said he is imitating Bèl Mèvèy.
Reynald Altema, MD