This is Me: Cedric Sorhaindo
When he was a teenager Cedric Sorhaindo hated the way he looked as a child that he ripped up all the photographs of him. "I was trying to forget about my younger self," he explains. "This is how I tell you how traumatic my childhood was." In the latest in our revealing series of stories featuring some of the biggest names in handball, the French star opens up to tell his own tale in a brutally honest piece that you will read, and read and read again. If you thought you knew the real Cedric Sorhaindo, think again.
This is Me: Cedric Sorhaindo
Handball could not have loved me. But I chose to love it anyway.
Our story started an unusual way.
I did not like myself when I was a child. Especially my body, which was going all ways but the right one.
First surgery at three years old to fix both of my knees. That was a huge blow to start a life.
Even though the surgeons did a great job, it did not help me liking my body. In fact, I hated it.
My childhood was, for the most part, a huge trauma. I have no memories of myself before I turned 10. My mum told me that once, when I was a teenager, I tore all the photographs of me as a kid.
Just looked at them and, one by one tore them up. Methodically.
As if I was trying to forget about my younger self.
This is how I tell you how traumatic my childhood was.
The words from the other kids, the looks, they pierced right through me.
I did not know my father much, but I was very close to my mum. She did everything in her power to guide me in the right direction – and that is how I started playing handball.
This sport probably made my life a much better one that it was supposed to be.
Handball, when I was a teenager, was a refuge. A place where I could compete, despite my handicaps and my problems.
Patrick Lecrocq and Denis Peter, the godfathers of handball in Martinique, my native island, pushed me to travel to the mainland to try and start a career.
At 17, travelling 7,000 kilometres away from your family, to a place you have never been before…That took some mental strength.
Being an only child, it was even harder for my mum to see me go. And me being her first grandchild, my grandma did everything to keep me with her.
But I was on a mission.
Looking back, this mission started on the wrong foot. Three months after landing in Angers, a small city 300 kilometres outside of Paris, I went to a doctor.
My foot was hurting all the time, and I knew something was wrong.
He told me the truth. Nothing but the truth. “Your shinbone needs to be broken, so it can grow again straight”.
Right, that was another blow.
“I promise you will be able to walk again. I cannot promise you will ever play handball again,” he said.
So there I was, thousands of kilometres away from home and with my project on hold already.
I had two choices: undergo the surgery and pray I would be back stronger or stop it all.
For a second, I imagined myself going back home, facing my mum and telling her that I had failed.
And four years later, I was playing my first national game with France.
I guess I made the right choice.
Moving to Paris in 2004 was my first step towards the stars. Thierry Anti…you know Thierry Anti, right?
Thierry put my foot into the saddle. I remember going to a game with Paris Saint-Germain back then, and saying to my friend Teddy Poulin: “One day, I will play for this club.”
And I did some time later.
Thierry, just like many of my coaches, was one of my dads. Not having known my dad much, I needed these male figures to drive me through life.
Growing up, I always had in mind to help my teammates and friends to navigate through life, both on and off the court.
My teammates, they are my brothers in arms. I would go to war with them.
It is especially true about the ones in the national team. Nikola Karabatic and Didier Dinart, were people that considered me as equal, no matter how bent my knees were. They always accepted me a whole. As a person.
And in return, I could only give my body with them.
The older I grow, the more I realised that I wrote handball history.
But to me, these titles were more about the people I won them with than anything else. A medal is a just a metal circle. A title is a memory.
These titles were about the people I lost in my life, or the people I missed in the team due to injuries. So to say that one is more special than the other is impossible.
But I was always hungry for the next one.
Every medal, every award was, in a way, a revenge on life, and also a way to expel my traumas. To give the middle finger to the people who criticised me earlier.
It is easy for me to link both my experiences with France and Barça.
I remained in Barcelona for 11 years, and there I became a man. I grew up and became mature.
From first one I connected with their “Mes que un club” mantra.
Xavi Pascual welcomed me with open arms. He is another one that I call “dad” now. He was a huge influence on me, and certainly a reason why I want to become a coach when I stop my career.
I want to keep transmitting things to the younger generations, just like I have done my whole career.
During my time there, I did not cheat once, I gave my heart and soul to this club. My role changed, for sure.
In the later days, I would make sure the new guys would feel at home and would have someone to talk to when they would need to.
I also met Dika Mem. He’s the only teammate I ever called “son”. Dika is my son.
Our relationship is hard to explain, we just found each other. As an only son, I always dreamt of having a brother, and maybe Dika is there to fill that void.
He is just one of the billion reasons that made it hard for me to leave Barça. I cried when I played my last game at Palau Blaugrana.
People that know me know that I never cry in public but that day the emotions were just too much.
I was sad to leave but, in the meantime, I knew it was for the best. A club is not about one player. Players come and go but the club always stays. And that is exactly what happened.
I thought about the future of the club, about passing the torch to younger players. About the club. “Mes que un club”.
Of course I would have loved to stay there forever. But the most important thing is always the future.
So I had to let it go.
But God, that was tough.
I realised the impact I had on this sport arriving in Dinamo. One of my teammates came up to me and told me he had been looking up to me since he was 13.
As weird as it may sound, I do not accept compliments. That is one of the traumas remaining from my childhood.
So when I hear him saying that, I feel awkward. I do not know what to do with it.
I told you earlier that Dika was my son, but I never felt so complete than since my second child was born.
Both my children make me feel full. When I am with them all my handicaps, all my scars, all the pain, vanish.
I became someone else when my daughter was born eight years ago. But I came full circle lately, when my son came into the world.
Travelling to Romania made me question a lot about myself, about being to let go some of the things from the past.
And having children is also part of this self-healing.
It is about forgetting the things that destroyed my childhood and that remain buried inside of me. About dealing with the bad thoughts I might have.
Will they love handball? Will handball love them?
I do not care.
Handball could not have loved me. But I forced it to love me. Eventually.