france flagBrought up by a Martinique family relocated to Le Havre, Kévin Anin grew up in the city’s Mont-Gaillard suburbs practising football in parallel with his main passion, French boxing, a sport he used to battle shyness and sensitivity. Boxing eventually brought two regional championship trophies before Anin decided to focus on football and signed for the Havre youth academy, famed for producing the likes of Vikash Dhorasoo and Steve Mandanda, in 1999 aged 13.

Anin signs his first professional contract for the Normandy side seven years later, in 2006, having tussled for the same defensive midfield slot at youth team level with Paul Pogba, who had joined the club at the same time.

After a debut season in Ligue 2, Anin is part of the first team of the oldest club in France (created in 1884 by a handful of Oxford and Cambridge alumni) as it is promoted to Ligue 1 at the end of 2007-2008. Anin discovers the French top flight on August 21, 2008, scoring his first league goal on March 8, 2009 at home against Sochaux. A regular in the Havre side, he compiles 25 appearances as the club reaps just 26 points and finishes the season bottom of the league.

On August 31, 2009, the struggling club agrees to sell one of his most promising assets to FC Sochaux, who had kept tabs on him since his first league goal. However the deal is cancelled at the last minute after he suffers an inflammation of his Achilles tendon.

Going back to Ligue 2, Anin features prominently in the Havre midfield before making the move to Sochaux after the club contacts him again one year after his aborted move. There, Anin shows the physicality and power on the ball which attracts the attention of several Premier League sides, including Arsenal, while contributing to the club’s superb fifth spot in the league.

He also shows glimpses of the moodiness that would later catch up with him as he is sent off for two yellow cards in thirty seconds against OGC Nice for reacting badly to taunts by François Clerc. He also starts missing several training calls and even fails to turn up for a game at Nancy on August 21, 2011, prompting the Sochaux board to put Anin on the transfer list.

So commanding at the heart of Sochaux’s midfield, Anin increasingly appears to struggle to find his place in real life. It is not a taste for parties and alcohol which prevent him from turning up at training sessions, just a general disdain for his existence as a football player.

Subjected to repeated bouts of depression, he tells L’Equipe he loves playing football, calling it “the best job in the world”, but also laments the people gravitating around him with their hypocrisy. “You can earn as much money as you like, if the heart isn’t there what’s the point ? Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here.”

On January 19, 2012, Anin signs for OGC Nice with the long-term objective of replacing Emerse Faé, who was also obliged to call a premature end to his career. There, he joins forces with his old Havre team-mate and OGCN captain Didier Digard at the heart of the Nice midfield, featuring in 13 of the season’s last 19 games.

And then, once again, he disappears.

As the 2012-2013 season starts, Anin is nowhere to be found. After days of uncertainty he finally calls club staff to tell them he has remained with his parents in Normandy for ‘personal reasons’. The OGCN board is at a loss but coach Claude Puel, instrumental in bringing the player to the South of France, decides to persevere with Anin, citing his ‘world class’ potential.

“This player is very sensitive and his every performance is heavily dependent on his mood of the day”, offers the Nice coach on a player who always takes a unique route to the training ground – the longest one, going along the Promenade des Anglais by the coast.

Five months later, on January 6, 2013, Anin finally comes back and makes an appearance in the French Cup against Metz. Two months later, he is man of the match against star-studded Paris Saint-Germain, dominating a midfield of Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti and Javier Pastore, though failing to prevent his team from a heavy 0-3 loss. Just when you thought this outing would motivate him to get back to his playing ways, he disappears again. Claude Puel intervenes saying the player has “serious problems” and will only come back when he feels able to. Meanwhile Kévin Anin stays at his parents’ home in the Havre suburbs.

In the early hours of June 4, on the A28 Normandy highway, Anin was a passenger in the back seat of a friend’s car as he lost control of the vehicle and crashed. Maintained in an artificial coma for ten days, Anin’s life is not thought to be in immediate danger, however the long-term repercussions of the crash, including a question mark over whether Anin will be able to walk again, are not yet known.

OGC Nice have set up an email address to send messages of support to Kévin and his family.  You can mail your support

By Igor Mladenovic

This article originally appeared in In Bed with Maradona