Former footballer Jean-Pierre Adams dies following 39-year coma



Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Jean-Pierre Adams: a life in picturesJean-Pierre Adams is a former France international who had spent the last 39 years in a coma.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Happier TimesHe went into the coma on March 17, 1982 after a routine operation went wrong.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Papal BlessingHidden in the darkness, Jean-Pierre meets Pope Pius XII shortly after being taken to Europe by his grandmother from Senegal. The picture is from a scrapbook that Bernadette still holds.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

The Adams FamilyJean-Pierre and Bernadette celebrate the birth of son Laurent in 1969. Their eldest son, who now lives in Corsica, was 11 when his father’s accident occurred.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Seventies StyleJean-Pierre and son Laurent in happier times. One of Bernadette’s regrets is the absence of a father figure during her sons’ upbringing and her inability to watch their sporting progress. “The accident certainly changed their lives. I didn’t always follow Laurent’s football, since I couldn’t travel. He would go with the neighbors. The youngest did judo and from time to time, I went to watch him compete — whenever I could — but it wasn’t often.”

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Guardian AngelBernadette has looked after her husband for the past 39 years. “It’s difficult because it’s true that I am no longer young,” she says. “He’ll die without being looked after. If I don’t do it, who will?”

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Defence and AttackJean-Pierre was born in Senegal but moved to France at the age of 10. Between meeting and marrying Bernadette, he had to undergo his military service — which included dealing with the events of May 1968, when France was gripped by civil unrest.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

‘Garde Noire’Marius Trésor (left) and Adams (right) formed a defensive unit known as the “Garde Noire” or “Black Guard.” It was the first time France had ever had two Black players in the center of defense.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

High PraiseTrésor (bottom left) and Adams (bottom right) were more than just a fancy moniker. “Adams and Trésor have formed one of the best centerback pairings in all of Europe,” said Germany’s 1974 World Cup-winning captain Franz Beckenbauer.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Blues BrothersAdams (back row, second from right) played in a France side that was “in construction,” according to teammate Henri Michel. The only major competition “Les Bleus” contested in the 1970s was the World Cup in 1978, though by then Adams’ France career was over. He made his debut in 1972 and finished in 1976.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

‘A very sad case’Michel played alongside Adams in both the French army and the country’s full national team. He remembers Adams as a “formidable teammate” but worries if enough is being done to help his family. “A little bit like everything these days, when so much is going on, I’m not sure he’s in that many people’s minds. Perhaps more could be done for him. It’s a very sad case. What his wife has done seems unthinkable. Incredible.”

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Rapid RiseAdams leaped straight from the amateur divisions to the French top flight, where he played for Nîmes (1970-73: above), Nice (1973-77) and Paris Saint-Germain (1977-79).

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Nice TouchNice fans display a banner reading “J-P Adams: One of Us” on April 28, 2007, ahead of their former player’s sons — Laurent and Frédéric — symbolically kicking off a match against Auxerre in tribute to their father.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Football FamilyLaurent (left) and Frédéric hold a shirt bearing their father’s name ahead of the Auxerre match. “This sort of gesture reminds us that members of the football family have not forgotten our father and all he did for the clubs he played for,” Laurent told reporters on the day.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Charity MatchA program showing a match organized by Adams’ former club Nîmes in aid of the footballer in 1984, two years after his accident.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Adams & AdamsJacques Vendroux, the general manager of the Variety Club of France (pictured here giving instructions to former France legends Laurent Blanc and Jean Fernandez), compares Adams to his namesake Tony, of Arsenal and England fame. “He was very strong in the air, very athletic and was a sort of sweeper. He was like that legendary Arsenal defender, who cleaned up everything and made the pitch free for others.”

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Trésor’ing the memoryTrésor, who now largely works for Bordeaux’s TV channel, is keen to preserve the memory he has of his former teammate and good friend. “Marius still regularly visits Jean-Pierre’s home,” said Vendroux. “He knows he is in his room but he does not go in to see him.”

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Nice TryPictured with former Dutch international Dick van Dijk, Adams enjoyed his time at Nice, helping the side finish second in the French championship in 1976. It was the closest Nice had come to winning the title since the club’s last triumph in 1959.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Team BondTrésor and Michel Platini, the UEFA President currently suspended by FIFA amidst an ongoing corruption inquiry, were instrumental in helping arrange matches on behalf of Bernadette, says Vendroux. “The Variety Club (VCF) has played several matches on behalf of Jean-Pierre, above all on the initiative of Platini and Trésor. This is because Jean-Pierre, towards the end of his career, played several matches for the VCF so the least we could do was bring together all the great internationals from the 1980s to play a match for him.”

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Legendary MomentsAt another tribute game for their father many years earlier, Laurent and Frédéric are pictured alongside Jean-Pierre’s former France colleagues Trésor and 1984 European Championship hero Alain Giresse.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Rugby FootballFrance rugby great Serge Blanco, who starred in the 1980s, was another to turn out for one of Adams’ charity matches.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Home HelpThere are no pictures of Jean-Pierre today as Bernadette is keen to preserve the memory of her husband from his heyday. For the last three decades, he has rarely left his family home in Caissargues, just outside Nîmes in southern France.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: The greatest untold love story

Future ConditionalBernadette continues to preserve both Jean-Pierre’s legacy and dignity, while hoping he awakes from his 34-year-long coma.



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