Edward Mindy. 29 years old. Franco Senegalese. Chelsea goalkeeper. If you were told, in 2014, that this would be your place in 2021, Mindy might laugh, he might cry, but he wouldn’t believe it. After he started the season as a substitute for Spaniard Kepa who was – and was – among the most expensive goalkeepers in European football, the Frenchman took his place. At present, few question the validity of their role in one of England’s biggest clubs, which reached the final in the Champions League this year.
In a remote interview with the Daily Mail, his voice was slightly weakened when he told the moment of his dismissal from the French third division club in 2014. Desperate, Mindy sent impulsive messages to his agent asking if anyone wanted him. The transfer period was about to close and the agent did not answer calls. It appears to be a recurring nightmare but it is not. It is simply one of many facts hidden in the apparent “glamor” of football.
Suddenly Mindy remembers his parents’ packed apartment in a poor suburb of Le Havre. Edward and his partner, who is pregnant for the first time, moved there that summer because they just couldn’t rent a place for them. The soccer player trained, without paying or receiving, in the local club’s gymnasium, in an effort to save his career.
Mendy remembers the year he didn’t have a club, when he turned to unemployment benefits, when it seemed impossible to support his family. It was the year he turned 23, the age at which most promising footballers had already won awards and glory.
Then came the opportunity to work, not the way I know best, but still better than live on benefits. A friend, who knew Mandy’s dream, offered him a chance to work in a clothing store. The Frenchman was very close to accepting her, but at that moment life changed.
This is why the Chelsea goalkeeper is repeating to his children a phrase in French that is universal advice: ‘Never be late’. That is, “Never give up.” In 2013/14, Mindy was still a goalkeeper. The club was AS Cherbourg of the fourth division of French football. This was his third season at the club, and he spent most of the time sitting on the bench. At the end of that season, he was discharged.
Edward put the shame aside and returned to Le Havre to train more than ever. It was a difficult year. A week after his friend first mentioned the possibility of giving him a job at the store, Mindy got a call from Marseille. The South of France wanted to give him a chance to become a backup goalkeeper.
Mendy was the fourth goalkeeper of Marseille. He saw the first team through the straw. He was offered a one-year amateur contract with a minimum wage. “Mendy was like a spare tire,” says Dominic Bernatovic, the goalkeeper coach at the Marseille academy. During that time, he played several times in reserve. It was enough for us to notice.
In 2016/17, the former future employee of the clothing store signed with Reims, Ligue 2. In the first game of the season, Mindy was a substitute, but the team owner was injured five minutes into the match. Edward had the best chance yet to show himself. Reims was replaced by Ligue 1 Rennes, with Petr Cech playing before going to Chelsea. And it was the same London club that chose from France to compete with Kepa for the heavy goal that had previously been the property of the Czech Republic.
“I feel lucky to be in a very positive phase in my career, playing at a club where I had the chance to win titles, but what happened was more than just luck. I worked hard to get to where I am now.” Said Edward Mendy, Chelsea’s international goalkeeper for the national team. Senegal, in 2021: “This (UEFA Champions League) Final is a reward for this work.”