Paris (AFP) – Bakary Meite’s story about volunteering in a Paris hospital during the coronavirus pandemic has been seen, heard and read around the world, but the Ivorian rower remains humble about his efforts.
Meite, 36, helps clean up the western parts of the city where he was born in late March and has been interviewed by the BBC, many national radio and television stations, and newspapers.
More than 20,000 people died from COVID-19 in France and more than 30,000 are hospitalized across the country on Monday, the largest region of the capital being the most affected.
“My actions have been highlighted in the media but it is the staff involved in hospitals every day that must be saluted,” he told AFP.
“These are the caregivers, the nurses, the cleaning ladies … the ones I work with now and who will always be there when I stop,” he added.
After returning from vacation in Brazil, the Parisian who plays for the second team in Carcassonne and qualifies for the Ivory Coast because of his family responded to a parent’s request.
“My sister’s brother-in-law works for a cleaning company hired by Sainte-Perrine Hospital,” said Meite.
“He called my sister because they were looking for someone, my nephew volunteered and I followed suit,” he added.
– Ramps, elevators, door handles –
The former striker of the Stade Français Meite’s shift begins at 7:30 am (05:30 GMT) and ends in the early afternoon.
“I clean everyday. Ramps, elevator buttons, door handles. There is a lot of ground to cover, but that is nothing compared to the work of the people at the hospital, “he said.
“Just doing something they don’t have to do anymore, I do something,” he added.
The first two levels of French rugby have been suspended since March 13 due to illness.
Meite, who has also had spells with Massy and Béziers, said he was looking forward to returning to the field before hanging up on his boots in 12 months.
“What I do, I will do as long as I need to, but I would really love to come back and play rugby with Carcassone,” he said.
“I still have a year left on my contract. It will be my last season. Right now I’m preparing my coaching qualifications. I don’t know yet what I’m going to do, we’ll see. “