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Happy Birthday Camille Ninel !

Published on 23 March 2020 at 12:00 PM
Joyeux anniversaire Camille Ninel !
Camille Ninel is now 92 years old. It’s an opportunity to recall the remarkable journey of one of Gerland’s first idols, who had to leave family, friends and his studies in Martinique in 1950 to don the uniform of OL.

"My son, you have to go to France. I don't want anyone to say that you're a thug. Be generous, honest, modest and simple ”. This is how Camille Ninel’s mother spoke to him on October 1, 1950 at noon. A few hours before, he was still running on his island in Martinique, which he had never left. At 3 p.m., just after being able to slip a few small items into a suitcase, the boat crossed the bay of Fort de France. It was an unexpected departure, a leap into the unknown, a singular adventure for those who only knew the Metropolis through stories and photos.

 

Born March 23, 1928 in Martinique and the second-youngest of a family of eight children, Camille discovered football during his adolescence, at random. He ran fast and had good endurance, he was skillful with the ball. He played barefoot, and the training conditions were rustic: seven amateur clubs, including his (Aigle Sportif), shared the same pitch. So a trip around Fort de France was a warm-up but also developed his exceptional physical qualities. At 20, Camille ran the 100 meters in less than 11 seconds and could jump over 6.50 meters in the long jump He doesn't really know when or by whom he was spotted, but Olympique Lyonnais, formed only a few months prior, decided to bring him in.

 

After two weeks on a boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean, Camille arrived in Le Havre, in shorts, where his brother was waiting for him. The shock was terrible. He who had known only the sun and a very mild temperature, had to buy some clothes to resist the Norman briskness in fall. On October 26, 1950, Camille arrived in Lyon where the administrative secretary, Mr. Vitalis, was waiting for him. The club welcome him in the Argenson Family restaurant. In the evening, alone and far from his island, he cried. Two days later, he was on the pitch, ready for his first training. During those few weeks of acclimatization, Camille trained with the professional group (which played in Division 2) and played with the CFA team (which played in the Regional League) He was very strong, he was too strong. So, on December 24, 1950, Oscar Heisserer launched Camille Ninel into the deep end on the occasion of the first match in OL's history in the Coupe de France, against Vichy, at the Stade de Gerland. It was in the following season that he became indispensable  to Lyon and that he began to write a beautiful love story with our club.

 

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With two assists in the 1st derby in history in 1951, and author of his first professional goal against Saint Etienne in January 1954, and sole scorer of OL during the 1st victory at the Geoffroy Guichard in October 1955, Camille Ninel has left an indelible mark on the hearts of Lyon fans. It was Lyon that he had learned to love, it was Lyon that made him such a player. On October 17, 1954, he played a match with the French B Team own his own pitch at the Gerland. On the bench at the start of the game, he came on and scored a goal that makes the public roar with pleasure. Camille couldn't contain her tears. He thinks back to his mother's promise, to the family he never saw again, and to all the efforts it took to succeed and to all of his new friends in Lyon.

A formidable relayeur, Camille Ninel was one of the 30 contenders for the 1958 World Cup. A nasty injury against Olympique de Marseille the previous year would prevent him from competing in this event and spoil the rest of his professional career. In 1961, after 284 official games with OL, it was time to hang up his cleats and then devote himself, for more than 50 years, to amateur football and in particular, from 1971, with the club of Ecully.



From the signing of his first professional contract with the Argenson family in 1951 until his arrival at the OL Museum in February 2019, without forgetting the club's first European match in Milan and the celebration upon his retirement at the Brasserie of the White Bear, Camille Ninel has  become part of the history of Olympique Lyonnais and carried his good humor and legendary laugh everywhere. It is up to us, Camille, to wish you a very happy birthday.