Football-playing brothers are, of course, a fairly regular occurrence in today's game. The Walter (Fritz and Ottmar) and Charlton (Jack and Bobby) brothers even won the FIFA World Cup™ together. What is much less common is four brothers playing at a high level, but the Mandandas are such a quartet. And what makes their story even more remarkable is that they are all goalkeepers.
The surname Mandanda is well known to football followers, especially in France, where the eldest brother Steve, 30, plays for Marseille and Les Bleus. Next in age is Parfait, 25, who has represented Congo DR and plays his club football for Charleroi in Belgium. Younger brother Riffi, 22, is on the books of Caen, but the former France youth international has been loaned out to a number of clubs. Over, at 17 the youngest, is a member of the Bordeaux youth team, but has recently started training with the professional side.
“Four brothers who are four goalkeepers – it is true that this is something quite rare,” Parfait told FIFA.com recently. “We even have an uncle who played goalie in Kinshasa, so I guess it must be something that runs in the family.”
At the time I was a little bit round, so I did not like running too much!
It might have been different, however, as Riffi and Parfait did not start out between the posts. “I started playing in Caen and they had a number of good goalkeepers,” explained Parfait. “So when I first started playing, I was a defender. But then I went into goal and I really liked it and the coaches said I had the qualities to become a good goalkeeper, so I stayed in goal, even if there was a lot of competition.”
Riffi laughs when he remembers why he pulled the gloves on: “At the time I was a little bit round, so I did not like running too much! But now I am no longer round. Also, when you have two brothers who are goalkeepers, it is natural for you to follow that path, even if it was not where I started.”
Both brothers agree that they had received encouragement and advice from older brother Steve, who first played professional football in 2005, when Riffi and Parfait were still very young. Parfait recalled: “Steve helped me a lot at first. He advised me and when I had something to ask him, he was there. But even if he is the oldest and plays for Marseille and France, he is open to advice from us also. We always say things constructively. And as we are all goalkeepers, we understand quickly.
Riffi agreed with his older brother. “Steve and Parfait have always followed my career and watched my matches, although they are not often on TV. But we give each other our opinions. It is always positively. For example, even with Steve we analyse what he has not done well. We often talk on the phone, and when possible, we will see the matches of each other.
“I was also helped a lot by Parfait, who was in Caen at the same time when I joined their training centre. He encouraged and supported me. There were times where I wanted to give it up, but because he was there for me, I stayed. He has had a big influence on my career and it is also because of him that I progressed.”
Surprisingly, the brothers have not yet played against each other, though Steve and Parfait once nearly did. In 2008 Steve received his first call-up to the France A side, which played a friendly against Congo DR, for whom Parfait was playing. Steve started the match, but was taken off at half-time for Hugo Lloris, while Parfait, in turn, started on the bench but came on in the second half.
It is a match that Steve, who was a member of the France squad at South Africa 2010 but had to withdraw from the 2014 party due to injury, still remembers: “It was a great moment in my career. I am sure that unconsciously I am the reason why my three brothers are all goalkeepers. I am sure that I influenced their choice without wanting to do so. And being the oldest, I also advise the others.”
With Steve, Parfait and Riffi all playing professionally, it could well be that they are soon joined by Over. “He has a lot of talent and I think he has all the qualities to make it as a professional,” Parfait said. And if his older brothers are anything to go by, it seems likely that the Mandanda name and goalkeeping will be used together for years to come.