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For some time the boy — now 23, and whose id is being withheld to guard his privateness — saved the messages to himself. He knew he was lucky, chosen amongst a bunch of two dozen boys who got coveted locations dwelling and coaching at France’s nationwide coaching heart at Clairefontaine, arguably the world’s main soccer ending faculty. He knew Clairefontaine had been the launching pad for dozens of high French skilled gamers. So fairly than communicate up concerning the disturbing messages, the boy stated nothing to his teammates, coaches or dad and mom.

The primary inkling that one thing was improper got here on a bus trip in 2012. The squad of gifted youngsters was in a sometimes boisterous temper. They have been poking enjoyable at each other when Tiago Escorza, one of many gamers, picked up his teammate’s cellphone. Escorza, now 23, recalled seeing messages from the trainer to the boy, telling him he beloved him. His response was to burst into laughter — after which to learn the messages aloud to the remainder of the gamers.

“All of us stated to him, ‘Is that your father or what?’” stated Hedi Mehnaoui, a goalkeeper who was current. Simply getting into their teenagers, he stated in a current interview, they weren’t mature sufficient to know the affect the messages might need had on the boy, or any motives San José might have had for sending them.

However, trying again, Mehnaoui stated, he now remembers his buddy speaking usually about quitting the academy. “He by no means actually defined why,” stated Mehnaoui, who was the boy’s roommate. “He saved every part to himself, so I didn’t ask an excessive amount of both.”

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A number of months later, the boy’s mom additionally turned conscious of the messages. Switching on a brand new cellphone she had purchased her son, she found a textual content from San José.

Her husband was livid concerning the message, she stated, however he was additionally coping with a critical sickness, so she determined she can be the one to confront San José, in individual. She did so with a letter, handed to him at Clairefontaine, that instructed him to not ship any extra messages to her son or to be alone with him underneath any circumstances. San José, she stated, disarmed her by telling her that in his tradition — he has a Spanish background — it was routine to say issues like “I really like you” even to folks exterior your individual household.

The matter might need ended there however for a dialog overheard by two watchmen chargeable for taking care of the staff throughout a routine night inspection. They have been proven messages — forwarded to 2 different boys — that they have been advised had been written by San José. “I’m fed up that it’s at all times me saying I really like you,” one learn, based on one of many watchmen.

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