Those who saw him playing
say: without the war, Larbi Ben Barek would have been recognized as one of the
greatest players in the history of football. He had all the talents and gifts:
touch of the ball, vision play, heading, dribbling, stature, and style.
Poor and orphaned at an early
age, Larbi was an attacker who had a dream that he would later transfer to the
field with some of the most unbelievably agile goals and passes ever seen in
the football world. His success with the US Moroccan team playing with players
as great as Zatelli and Janin, Just Fontaine, Chicha and the Mahjoub brothers
attracted the attention of the Olympic of Marseille which he joined in 1938.
Arrived unknown during summer
38, Kohut scored at the first minute a goal laid on by Ben Barek who scored
2 more by the time, the first game of the season against Racing of Paris, was
over. And what a match it was (5-2,September 4). He overwhelmed Sindelar of
Austria, Sarosi of Hungary and the French selection of Veinante, Nicolas, and
Three months later, on the
4th of December in Naples, Larbi the-exceptionally gifted played his first game
for France against Italy who were double world champions (0-1). The team of
France at the following game thrashed Poland (4-0, January 22.1939), he offered
a goal on a plate to Zatelli with this comment: "Here for you, Mr Mario..."
Larbi was held in high esteem,
and enjoyed tremendous respect that, when his club stade de France wanted to
transfer him to Atletico of Madrid in 1948, a French journalist wrote “Sell
the Arch of Triumph or the Eiffel Tower, but do not sell Ben Barek”. Larbi
left France and played for the prestigious Atletico of Madrid.
There, he formed with Herrera
the deadliest attacking force in Spanish football history and rediscovered the
path to the net, scoring 9 goals during his second game against Racing Santander,
56 goals in 113 appearances before he sealed his spell at Spain with two Champion
At the ripe old age of 40, he
played the 1954 French Cup final with the O.M. A few months later, (October
16,1954) France faced in Hanover Germany the new world champion, who they ripped
apart, beating them 3-1 with Larbi who played for France for 15 interval years.
Exceptional longevity due without any doubt to a very healthy way of life, where
alcohol and the tobacco were shunned. At the time of his return to Marseilles
(1954-56), he lived in Périer Boulevard and walked everyday to the Vélodrome
stadium for his training sessions. He never refused a snap shot or a word of
encouragement from his fans. In 1992 September 16th, the Black Pearl died in
Larbi Ben Barek carried the
torch of legends during his time with Olympic of Marseilles, Atletico of Madrid
and French national team. He carried it with grace, dignity and a great love
for the game. In return the Moroccans and footballing World legends such as
Pele, who offered him his famous number 10 shirt, had taken Larbi Ben Barek
into their hearts forever. And it goes without saying that Ben Barek was without
any shadow of doubt - the definitive footballing genius.
Thanks to Ahmed.