Back-rower to hospital cleaner - Meite joins France's fight against coronavirus
Paris (AFP) –
Bakary Meite's story of volunteering at a Paris hospital during the coronavirus pandemic has been seen, heard and read across the world, but the Ivory Coast back-rower remains humble about his efforts.
Meite, 36, has been helping out cleaning wards in the west of the city where he was born since late-March and has been interviewed by the BBC, numerous national radio and television stations as well as newspapers.
More than 20,000 people have died from COVID-19 in France and over 30,000 are in hospital across the country as of Monday with the capital's larger region the worst hit.
"My acts have been brought to the fore in the media but it's the personnel involved every day in the hospitals that you have to praise," he told AFP.
"It's the carers, the nurses, the cleaners... those with which I work now and who will still be there when I've stopped," he added.
After returning from holiday in Brazil the Parisian who plays for second-tier side Carcassonne and qualifies for the Ivory Coast due to his family answered a relative's request.
"My sister's brother-in-law works for a cleaning company contracted by Sainte-Perrine hospital," Meite said.
"He called my sister, because they were looking for someone, my nephew offered himself spontaneously and I followed suit," he added.
- Ramps, elevators, door handles -
Former Stade Francais forward Meite's shift begins at 7:30am (0530 GMT) and finishes in the early afternoon.
"I clean every day. The ramps, the buttons on the elevators, the door handles. There's a lot of ground to cover but it's nothing compared to the work the people in the hospital do," he said.
"The simple fact of doing something that they don't have to do extra, I'm doing something," he added.
The top two tiers of French rugby have been put on hold since March 13 due to the illness.
Meite, who has also had spells with Massy and Beziers, said he was itching to getting back on the field before hanging up his boots in 12 months' time.
"What I'm doing, I'll do it for as long as I need but I'd really like to get back playing rugby with Carcassone," he said.
"I still have a year left of my contract. It will be my last season. For now I'm preparing my coaching qualifications. I don't know yet what I'll do, we'll see."
© 2020 AFP