Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Max Brito at end of tether after 12-year struggle

In 1995, Max Brito, a dashing, 24-year-old dreadlocked winger, arrived at the Rugby World Cup full of hope for himself and his Côte d’Ivoire team.

But after just three minutes of the group game against Tonga in Rustenburg in South Africa, he collapsed under a crunching tackle from flanker Inoke Afeaki and was crushed beneath an avalanche of bodies.

Two of his vertebrae were shattered and he was left a quadriplegic.

Twelve years on, with his wife having left him and barely on speaking terms with his two teenage sons, Brito has had enough.

”It is now 12 years since I have been in this state. I have come to the end of my tether,” Brito told Le Monde newspaper.

”If one day I fall seriously ill, and if I have the strength and courage to take my own life, then I will do it.”

Brito, now 36 and virtually confined to his bed at his home in Bordeaux, can only move his head and upper body as well as one arm, albeit rather awkwardly.

”This bloody handicap,” he said. ”It’s my curse. It kills me and I will never accept it. I can’t live with it and it’s going to be with me for the rest of my life.”

Brito has seen his wife leave him while he receives grudging visits from his two sons.

”They only ever want to take money off me so they can go out and buy things,” added Brito, who has claimed he received little financial support from the sport’s rulers in the aftermath of his accident.

”We became involved in money-raising events for Max,” said former England sevens captain Damien Hopley, who had to retire early because of injury and is head of the Professional Rugby Players’ Association.

”But there was very little support for him from Rugby World Cup,” added Hopley, speaking in 2003.

The tragedy that befell the Senegal-born, former electrician has mercifully not been repeated in subsequent World Cups even though there were fears of accidents before the amateurs of Portugal faced New Zealand in the current tournament.

However, according to English Rugby Football Union chief medical officer Dr Simon Kemp, Brito’s injuries are almost unique at the highest level.

”Statistics on one-sided matches are not available. But my view is that the physicality of a match will drive up the rate. The game, of course, has got harder and faster and with more powerful players you expect the collision to be more ferocious,” Dr Kemp told the Independent on Sunday prior to the 2003 World Cup.

”Intuitively you feel there is an increased risk of injury, but there’s a counter-side. Catastrophic injuries, like the one Max Brito suffered, are very rare at this level.

”The statistical average is that they shouldn’t occur more than once in every four World Cups.” — Sapa-AFP

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Pirate Irwin
Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening. 

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

The South African Bone Marrow Registry celebrates 30 years of...

‘It’s not drilling into bones!’: Misconceptions keep donors away, says SABMR, but a match outside of a patient’s family is a needle in a haystack

R500-million Covid-19 Gauteng hospital contract was irregularly awarded — SIU

The bank accounts of Pro Service Consulting and Thenga Holdings have been frozen

More top stories

With its industrial base decimated, SA’s economy needs real change...

Speaking at a book launch on Tuesday, the finance minister said a focus on manufacturing is critical to stem the country’s deepening unemployment crisis

Defence team cagey about Zuma’s health after state advised he...

The former president was absent from court, but his counsel argued that health matters be left aside, so as to hear his case for the removal of Billy Downer

The South African Bone Marrow Registry celebrates 30 years of...

‘It’s not drilling into bones!’: Misconceptions keep donors away, says SABMR, but a match outside of a patient’s family is a needle in a haystack

New clean fuel standards could be the end of refineries...

In the absence of mechanisms to recoup investment into cleaner fuels, refineries may be faced with tough decisions

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…