Professional soccer has the ability to turn even the poorest person into a wealthy one, changing their life completely in the process and turning them instantly into role models for impoverished communities around the globe. The hope is that with all the money, fame and adoration that comes with being a professional these players can avoid the temptation to make stupid decisions. Apparently, French national team stars Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema didn’t get the memo and are facing up to three years in jail and a $60,000 fine for allegedly soliciting prostitute Zahia Dehar, 21, back in 2008 and 2009.
The trial was originally set to be held at a criminal court in Paris last June but was moved to this Monday for “procedural reasons.” Not that it mattered anyway, considering Ribery, Benzema and Dehar were no-shows. To be fair, the trio are not legally required to attend the trial and will be represented by their lawyers until a decision is made by the judge.
Because prostitution is legal in France, provided the prostitute is 18 years or older, Ribery did admit to flying Zahia out to Munich and having sex with her back in 2009 but stated that he never payed her at any point. Zahia, who wasn’t 18 at the time, admitted that she lied about her age. Zahia also claimed that Benzema payed her $678 for sex back in 2008 when she was 16, an allegation that he and his lawyer have both denied.
For two of the best players in world to be caught up in a situation like this, whether true or not, is very disappointing, and their decision not to appear in court does not reflect favorably on the jury. These are players that have followed their dreams since they were children and made it to huge clubs like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. So why risk it? Considering that Ribery has a rags-to-riches type story himself, it is disappointing that he would show such poor judgement when he knows that millions of people look up to him.
At 26 and 30-years-old respectively, Benzema and Ribery are probably surrounded by women their own age whenever they go out in Munich or Madrid. Convenience is not an excuse for ignorance. These men are international superstars that represent an entire nation not just on the field, but in their communities as well. These actions not only reflect badly on the players themselves but also on their clubs who have put their trust in them to represent historical ideals.
With the way things work in professional sports, chances are that Ribery and Benzema never step foot inside a French jail and the pair will probably get away with a heavy fine. Whether that is justice is up to personal interpretation, but as a big fan of the two players, I hope they will learn from their mistakes, understand that people would give anything to be in the position they are and would never think of doing anything to jeopardize it.