With 61 caps and more than 370 points with les Bleus, a lot of people describe him as one of the best scrum-half of all time. Dimitri Yachvili started with the PUC, then flew to England, in Gloucester and finally joined France and Biarritz Olympique in 2002. He won two Grand Slams in 2004 and 2010 with the international French team and played a World Cup final in 2011 against Ritchie McCaw’s All Blacks. The “Yach” is known for being a bit quiet, but when we mentioned Serge Betsen, he came alive and confided in us.
- Hello Dimitri. In which circumstances have you met Serge?
It was in Biarritz in 2002, when I joined Biarritz Olympique. It’s always impressive to meet a legend. I was young, I was barely 22 years old and he’d just been voted best player of the French championship.
- Who was he for real outside a rugby field?
This is going to be complicated to dissociate him from rugby because as a human being he was someone extremely kind who has a big heart, can be fun and helpful. He’s always been close to young people. When I arrived I was 21 years old and Serge was 5 or 6 years older than me and he was already in the middle of his career. He has always been close to young people in terms of transfer of knowledge. He has always done his best to enable young people to feel well and to progress. He welcomed me well and a few months later we were roommates, and it lasted years. All of this inevitably creates links.
- He created in 2004 the SBA. Does this remind you something? What does this evoke?
Of course! It’s his way to return to his roots. It’s his way to give back to his native people everything he did during his career in France. He’s always had a humanitarian side. Helping others and the weakest has always been a priority. It’s not a big surprise if he created this association in 2004.
- When you hear that young Cameroonians struggle and use rugby to mature and escape from their daily life, what do you want to tell them, as a former rugby man and as a human being?
Really often rugby allows to get through complicated and hard situations. It’s also a way to become a more social person in life. The group cohesion that is created during trainings and games allows this. And I don’t talk about the confidence in themselves that these kids manage to get, and all of this with joy and pleasure! Because sport and rugby before everything must stay a pleasure.
- If you had to give a piece of advice to these young Cameroonians, what would it be?
Take pleasure to find themselves. I don’t particularly have lessons to give to these young people but the pleasure to find on an outside the pitch.
- The final word?
Long life to the Serge Betsen Academy and bravo again for everything you realize for these young people and sport in general.
Collected by Jean Verdon