Mansour Bahrami, who left his mark on Roland-Garros, continues to bring the tournament to life thanks to the Legends Trophy. His son, Sam, decided to tell his story through a clothing brand in his honor. For Paris Match, she returns with pride and excitement to her father’s incredible journey.
Party of Paris. With your “Mansour by Sam” collection, you have chosen to pay tribute to the career of your father, who came to France from Iran without a penny in his pocket, before becoming one of the greatest in the world. world tennis. How did the idea for this brand come about?
Sam Bahrami. This is an idea that has been on my mind for a long time. It must date back to the 2000’s. At the time, she was having a summer home with Robin, Björn Borg’s son. I had just launched a line with t-shirts, polo shirts, shorts … Robin arrived with a bag full of clothes and I loved that there was a brand name in his father’s name. And although I knew that my father could not be compared to Borg, I also knew that he had a real capital of sympathy when he entered the court. I was 14 or 15 at the time, and I asked, “Why don’t we make a mustache brand?” And the father replied, “No, we’ll never leave a mark on my name, he’s Borg, I’m nobody, nobody cares.” I was frustrated, but it stuck in my mind. And during covid-19, I thought a bit, I met a friend who already has a clothing brand and who offered to help me. The story began like this. I wanted to pay tribute to his journey. He left Iran and came here when he was homeless. He slept on those Roland-Garros benches. I am very proud of my father, of the career we know of him now and especially of his later career. I think it’s the world number one in exhibition matches.
How did you convince him this time?
At first he was a bit closed, mostly because he’s a Lacoste ambassador. But I remember preparing a small TV presentation while he was sitting on the couch. And little by little I saw that it was opening up, that it was recovering, and it encouraged me to do so. It took us 10 months to mature the logo, the narration.
In this line, each t-shirt tells a particular story …
Yes, there are several important dates. For example, there is a T-shirt that says “Bon 1980”. The father arrived in Nice on August 8 with three snowshoes in his hand, a three-piece suit, it was 35 degrees … There he sees the women topless when he comes from Iran. He walks along the Promenade des Anglais with 8,000 francs in his hand and goes to buy a sandwich and a can. He quickly realizes that it won’t last long. See the casino, think it’s your chance … it’s obviously zero
Also honor the Porte d’Auteuil, where Roland-Garros takes place. How does your dad relate to this place?
He started sleeping on these benches and then made a final at Roland-Garros in doubles. At that time, he only played tournaments in France, he was not allowed to play anywhere else. When he makes his final, he is 32 or 33 years old. It was old for a player. And then the story went on. In 1997, he created the Legends Trophy here. He angered the tournament director and it was a hit right away. It was a real success that continues to last.
You yourself have spent a lot of time here, what memories do you have of your childhood at Roland-Garros?
I remember one time in particular, when I was picked up in kindergarten in 1989 to come and comfort my father who had just lost the doubles final. In fact, Dad trains here all year round, so from a young age this stadium was my backyard, I always knew it was empty. I was going to get here with Henri Leconte’s son, we were playing tennis while our parents were training, we were exploring the stadium. I’ve also seen hundreds of matches here. I am very attached to this place. When I get here, I feel a little at home.
Not only did you follow your father here, you also accompanied him throughout his career and beyond. What highlights do you remember?
I loved watching my father play at the end of his career, at 37, 38 or 39. He still played doubles. In Monte Carlo, I remember that game where he teamed with Leconte against Becker and Forget in the center full to bursting while Becker was still number 3 in the world. There are also all the memories in the Albert Hall in London, where his father has been playing for 25 years. It’s a special place. But most of all, I have in mind the Legends Trophy. In 1997, he played with guys like Ilie Nastase and now he meets Julien Benneteau, it’s nice to see him. I especially remember a game in 1997, for the first edition of the Legends Trophy … Dad was playing on track 1 with McEnroe, people were crowding to watch this game, they were fighting at the entrance of track 1 Admission was free, they were sitting everywhere, on the stairs, waving. And from the top of the center court, the spectators, facing out, applauded.
How do you explain your father’s great popularity?
He likes to give pleasure when he enters the field, he is very generous, he shows tennis, a little champagne. He communicates a lot with the people on the track. This capital of sympathies has grown year after year and brings together several generations. There are people in their 70s who saw him play 20 or 30 years ago who bring their children who themselves bring their children. I think it’s great for three generations to come see a guy who makes everyone laugh in the field.
Do you proudly share your story today, but in the past, hasn’t the Bahrami family name sometimes been a heavy legacy?
I can’t say it was complicated, but you have to learn how to handle it. This has very good sides. Having that name gave me access to a lot of things, but it’s still a heavy name because sometimes, professionally or socially, people will judge you. Sometimes you have to do more than others to give yourself more credibility. Now, I learned how to handle it smoothly but in my teens it was harder. There are people who are happy to meet you and others who are jealous.
“When I first came to Iran, I understood what I had been able to do, and I’m very proud of that.”
What does it mean to you to tell your father’s story like this?
It’s a great emotion when I talk about it. I tell myself that I am very lucky to be able to do this. I went to Iran, I saw where he grew up under the bleachers of Amdjadieh Stadium, where they had a 9m2 ground room to live at 6. He started from scratch, he went to school while working as ball since age. of 6. And he ended up coming here and doing the career we know. When I see my family in Iran, no one could do what they did. No one taught him to speak French or English, he did it all by himself. He never had a coach, an agent. When I first came to Iran, I understood what I had been able to do, and I was very proud of that.
What does your family think about Iran on their amazing trip?
They are very proud. When I first went there were 1000 people at the airport waiting for us. My brother and I were treated like princes. As soon as I put my feet on the ground I felt at home (contains tears, ed.) …
Mansour Bahrami’s life in Amdjadieh is also the subject of a T-shirt, can you tell us more?
Amdjadieh is the complex where he grew up. I can tell you the story of his first racket. He had fought for it, he had fixed it, he had tied all the knots back together. At that time, he had the right to do all sports except tennis, because tennis was reserved for the elite. One afternoon, in the middle of summer, he went to court when he was not entitled. At that time, it was usually too hot, there was no one there. He was able to exchange a few balls with a club member but security quickly arrived, surrounded him and broke his racket. Not only did they break his racket, but here he also has a scar (shows the top of his forehead, editor’s note), they opened his skull. When he got up, bleeding, he saw his racket torn in two, it was a shock to him. It’s the only story she told me when I was little, so she was still very excited when she told it. When I went to this stadium in Amdjadieh, I saw an old man coming towards us. I saw my father overwhelmed with emotion … oh sorry I’m going to cry but it means a lot to me (voice shakes, editor’s note) -, the old man came and knelt before his father. He told me he was the guy who broke his racket. I wanted to kick her ass! I was 12 or 13 years old. And Dad said to me “no, look where he is, blame himself and look at what I’ve achieved.”
Beyond that clothing line, would you like to tell your father’s story in a different way in the future, through a book or a movie?
Dad has already said it in a book, there have been reports, including a fantastic one on HBO. But if you’re ever interested, I have a lot of stories to tell about the senior circuit. I lived with real legends, I didn’t realize it at the time. I saw them fed up, I shared whole months with them. I found myself doing the sparring partner of Jimmy Connors, Björn Borg, John McEnroe. I knew it was great, but I didn’t realize how lucky I was to live in those moments. And today, when I meet John, who is an idol to me, he always has nice words. They all saw me grow up. They’re not people I call every day, but I know that if I call them one day because I need them, they’ll always be there. When Björn is in Paris, we have dinner together, we have fun. I also grew up with the children of Yannick (Noah), Joakim and Yelena. Yan, as soon as we see each other, let’s party.
How do you see tennis today, when you lived in such a different time?
When I was little and my dad played the big picture, he would grab me and hold my hand to go to the locker room. Today, that would be impossible. Everything is more controlled, but this is part of the evolution of tennis. I’m not nostalgic, we still get a chance to see guys play like Christmas, that’s how it is with tennis today. In football it’s the same. There is a lot more money in sports today. I’m not saying it was better before, it was just different. The only thing I miss is the emotions of the players on the court. Kyrgios or Paire, I pay my ticket to go see them play because I know something will happen to them. There are more shows when players can express themselves on the field.
“Mansour by Sam” is only for sale on the Internet. The brand offers a 10% discount with the code “Mansour”.