Jean Michel Russello
I became disabled aged 31 following an accident. I didn’t respond well to becoming disabled – I had depression and felt rejected by life.
It was my doctor who recommended that I may find refuge through sport.
I started to swim and cycle, and gradually increased how much I was doing. I wanted to challenge myself and give myself something to aim for.
In 2009 I cycled from my hometown in Sorgues to Mont Saint Michel, which was 1050km. The next year I cycled 1350km to Wettenberg in Germany. I finally cycled all the way to Sicily in 2013 – a trip of almost 2000km. My cycling helped me to feel good about myself again, and my love of my football club, Olympique Marseille, has given me a new taste for life.
I fell in love with Marseille back when my father first took me to attend a match 44 years ago. Since 2007 I have attended every match, along with my wife, son and other members of my family.
I have also watched the team play in many different French cities, and travelled to Germany, Portugal, Italy, Turkey and England to follow Marseille. I really enjoyed the San Siro in Milan and Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, as well as the atmosphere at Fenerbahce! The match in Dortmund, when we came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and qualify for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, is my most memorable experience.
Watching live football has helped me to forget about being disabled. I’m not a disabled person in the stadium, I’m a fan!
Football has also helped me to meet two of my heroes – Josip Skoblar and Basile Boli. Skoblar won the European Golden Boot as a Marseille player in 1971 and nobody has ever scored more league goals in a season – 48 – in France. Boli scored the winner when Marseille won the UEFA Champions League Final in 1993 in Munich. I also loved to watch Zinedine Zidane and Jean Pierre Papin at Marseille, though my favourite player now is Lionel Messi.
I can honestly say that football has changed my life. Football helped me to overcome depression and get my life back. I go to the stadium now and I go as a Marseille fan, not as just a disabled person.
I hope UEFA EURO 2016 will be a great success and France can win because we play at home. I also think that Germany, Italy and Spain will be competitive.