Legend has it that Roger Milla once explained that he ” discovered winter in Valenciennes. “If the anecdote remains to be confirmed, the change must have been radical, at the end of 1977, when the Cameroonian landed in Hainaut. The striker’s reputation, which has stacked goals for several seasons with his club Tonnerre Yaoundé, has grown even further since France Football awarded him the African Ballon d’Or in 1976. It is therefore a big blow that the Valenciennes club, however not very wealthy at the time.
“It was financially complicated at VA. We had the minimum, that is to say, not much, no matter the status of the player “
A subscription was even organized with the supporters to pay for the transfer. But VA, then in D1, will not be able to benefit immediately from his new recruit. The Polish Zygmunt Marscyk could not be transferred, the club is left with three foreigners, one too many according to the rules of the time. Last arrived, Milla is therefore not allowed to be aligned in D1 and spends the first six months of her Valencian adventure with young DH players like Francis Gillot or Philippe Piette.
Six months in the Honor Division
” He had learned about it when he arrived but had no ill will to be in DH with us, he was involved, remembers the second. On Sunday we counted on him. He was exploiting us and we were very attentive. We looked at him with amazed eyes, he was the star. Milla therefore waits in DH, before finally starting in D1 at the start of the 1978-79 season. Meanwhile, he had to digest his new daily life and there again, nothing is simple. The Cameroonian is housed in an apartment near the station with very basic comfort. ” At the time it was financially complicated at VA, continues Piette. We had the minimum, that is to say, not much, no matter the status of the player. It was probably harder to live for someone who came from abroad and had to adapt to a new environment. “
“It quickly became the darling (…) He was fast, technical and kept the ball well. He had the full panoply of a great striker. We suspected he would go far “
The Valencian reality is far from the promises announced but Roger Milla will be walking on the D1 during the summer of 1978. His six goals in the first eight days – including two double against Nice and Bastia – put Valenciennes at the top of the poster and we hurry to Nungesser to admire the Cameroonian in his works. ” It quickly became the darling, he made the difference all by himself, still appreciates Philippe Piette who discovered the D1 that season. He was fast, technical and kept the ball well. He had the full panoply of a great striker. We suspected that he would go far. “
The crazy summer of the Cameroonian will however be short-lived. By dint of making the headlines, the star became closely watched. The opposing scoring is getting tighter, the blows are raining and Milla will no longer score this season. If started off well, VA will not save their skin in D1 until the last day. ” It was an extraordinary month and a half and then he had a hole, adds Philippe Piette. We still don’t really know why. But I was not surprised to see what he did next. He had that extra bit of madness for doing extraordinary things. “
Transferred the following summer to Monaco, Milla then passed through Bastia, Saint-Etienne and Montpellier but it was in the World Cup that her talent, seen furtively at Nungesser, jumped to the eyes of the planet. In 1990, at 38, he almost alone qualified Cameroon for the quarters of the Italian world and four years later in the United States, he became the oldest goalscorer (42 years) in the history of the competition at the same as an icon of world football. Very far from the DH fields of its Valencian beginnings.