A footballer ending his career for a completely unconnected job is far from unheard of. Often, players will retire and start up a business or invest their earnings outside of the beautiful game. It is, however, entirely unheard of for a footballer to support a murderous fascist once his career finishes.
Alexandre Villaplane was a seemingly innocuous French footballer, who played through the 1920s and early ’30s for several different clubs as well as his adopted country, France.
Early football days
Having been born in Algeria in 1905, Villaplane began his footballing career early on at the French club, FC Sète. He later made a controversial move to their bitter rivals, Nimes, on the back of a generous wage package.
Villaplane was heralded for his tough-tackling, visionary passing and high-tempo style of play. He soon earned the respect of both fans and rivals across the country; culminating in his first cap for France in 1926. Shortly after another big-money move to Racing Club de Paris, Villaplane became captain of the French team for what he described as the “happiest day of my life”.
The French squad aboard the ‘SS Conte Verde’ on the way to the 1930 World Cup pic.twitter.com/J2T3sGMeyd
— The League Magazine (@Theleaguemag) November 7, 2016
It was France’s first ever World Cup finals game. They triumphed over Mexico 4-1. Villaplane was living at the very peak of his career.
Less than 15 years later, he ordered the execution of 52 of his countrymen.
Villaplane the millionaire
But let’s rewind back to 1929. Following on from his lucrative move to the French giants Racing Club de Paris, Alexandre Villaplane became one of the wealthiest sportsmen on the planet. And he made no attempt to hide it.
Villaplane was one of the pioneers of the millionaire-footballer lifestyle; regularly seen flaunting his cash in bars, clubs and at the horse racing. It was at these events that he first met the criminal underworld.
The career of this once respected midfielder subsequently started to tumble. Having upped sticks and left Paris for another lump sum of cash in 1932; Villaplane was released by FC Antibes as they were stripped of their championship title for match-fixing.
Can any other football club apart from FC Antibes boast of a terrace that incorporates a Memorial to WorldWar1 and a Vauban fortress? pic.twitter.com/OJzjoG2TaY
— Brian Salmon (@flyingking2) February 1, 2017
Whilst Villaplane was not directly accused, it is now thought that his manager had taken the fall for the corruption and that he was in fact the guilty conspirator. The gaffer was sacked, yet Villaplane earned himself even more cash as he left the disgraced club. Not so respected after all, then.
By now, he had become completely disinterested in football. Playing one game for Nice – the only team he graced that you’re likely to know – Villaplane was then sacked for regularly missing training and losing his once praised level of fitness.
The next year, he was sent to prison for fixing horse races in Paris. His footballing days were well and truly over.
What followed was a disturbing life of robbery, black market trading, torture and eventually mass murder. All under the name of a certain Adolf Hitler.
When France was plunged into Nazi occupation in 1940, Villaplane became the close associate of two men. One of these was Henri Lafont, a relative kingpin in supplying Nazi soldiers with much desired goods via the black market. The second was Pierre Bonny, a disgraced former police officer who, much like Villaplane, had been arrested on the grounds of corruption.
The three of them formed what became known as the ‘French Gestapo’. Not the cuddliest bunch.
Dec 16,1943: Paris Gestapo arrests Russian princess Vicky Obolenskaya, a legend of French resistance. Executed in 1944 pic.twitter.com/D8LrwCIm
— RT’s WWII Tweets (@Voina_41_45eng) December 16, 2012
In the pursuit of money, as he had been for the majority of his life, Villaplane and his assailants would provide Nazis within France with effectively whatever they wanted and would sell whatever was left for their own profit.
Hitler’s murders begin
Whilst the rest of their compatriots in France were experiencing harsh oppression during the occupation, Alexandre Villaplane and Co. were under the trust and protection of Nazis across the country. In order to be supplied with SS uniforms and subsequent Nazi security, the ‘French Gestapo’ would also track down “enemies of the Reich” and torture them in the seedy cellar of a French apartment. This kept them in favour with their German bosses.
These “enemies” included Jews, homosexuals and resistance fighters. All in the name of protecting their profit.
Extermination of the resistance
Sickeningly, Villaplane later became a senior figure in the Brigade Nord Africain, whose job was to cleanse the Périgord region. In this role, he became known as a ruthless and brutal leader. Villaplane’s unit became infamous and he is reported to have shot a man in 1944 for supporting the resistance. He had 10 of this man’s comrades executed.
The qualities Villaplane had shown to become captain of his country had become perversely twisted to orchestrating the ruthless extermination of those who once cheered his name.
26/12/1944. Morre aos 39 anos em Arcueil, Alexandre Villaplane, meia da França na Copa do Mundo de 1930 pic.twitter.com/CrdGhLW7p3
— Protofutebol (@protofutebol) December 27, 2014
His stomach-churning brutality is best epitomised in the following passage regarding a 59-year-old mother of six, accused of safeguarding a Jewish man.
“Alex picks her up brutally, pushes her into a neighbouring farm, hitting her with his rifle butt on the way, and there he forces her to watch an appalling scene: men from the BNA torture two peasants in front of her. Alex laughs. He then orders Geneviève Léonard [the mother] to give him 200,000 francs.” Philippe Aziz, author of Tu Trahiras Sans Vergogne
Clearly, he was a vile man. It gets worse, however.
“A witness told us how he saw with his own eyes these mercenaries take jewels from the still-twitching and bloodstained bodies of their victims. Villaplane was in the midst of all this, calm and smiling. Cheerful, almost invigorated.” Philippe Aziz
Around this time, Villaplane had ordered the devastating execution of 52 men in a sunny commune near the Dordogne.
The fall of France’s most hated traitor
As the French resistance grew and Hitler’s Nazis conceded a loss to France, Villaplane realised his time was up.
Despite a weak attempt at forging retribution, by publicly freeing some prisoners and claiming that “I am… compelled to wear a German uniform!” in order to “save you at the risk of my own life,” Villaplane’s fabricated reversal of intentions failed.
He was shot, like so many of his victims, in a group sentenced to a cold and unforgiving death. Unlike his victims, Alexandre Villaplane was not defending his country’s liberty. He was defending a murderous fascist for the sake of his own financial gain.
He saw his life plummet from “the happiest day” as France’s football captain, to being executed as one of it’s most hated traitors. His legacy will forever be one of deceit, disloyalty and destruction.