Payet enjoys 'magnificent' Reunion

  • Dimitri Payet receives hero's welcome on his return to home island of La Reunion
  • Midfielder was born and grew up on French overseas department in Indian Ocean
  • Thousands of fans turn out to greet France international on his arrival and tour
Dimitri Payet has received a hero’s welcome on returning to his home island of La Reunion.

West Ham United’s France international playmaker headed back to the Indian Ocean territory following his outstanding showing at UEFA Euro 2016.

Payet has recently been appointed as an official ambassador for La Reunion by a French telecoms operator, featuring in advertising campaigns and making personal appearances.

On landing at Roland Garros Airport on the island’s northern coast on Wednesday, the smiling No27 was met by a group of 500 supporters who welcomed him with songs and dances.   

After signing autographs and posing for photographs with fans, Payet thanked his fellow islanders for their support in the native Reunion Creole language. He later met 100 young footballers – many of them wearing their favourite’s No8 France shirt – during a visit to the town of Sainte-Marie.

“When I arrived in La Reunion a few days ago, I was welcomed by a large group of fans who were playing a song that honours me,” he said in one of a succession of television interviews. “It was a fantastic welcome home from them and I think there were more or less 500 people at the airport when I landed.”

“I have just become an ambassador for the island of La Reunion – a role that consists of representing La Reunion and presenting the beauty of this magnificent island. During the Euros we were able to put La Reunion on the map and a lot more people are now aware of the island.

“Where possible with my planning, I will be going to certain events to speak about the island and promoting the island in England.”
It was a fantastic welcome home from them and I think there were more or less 500 people at the airport when I landed
Born in the town of Saint-Pierre on the island’s south coast, Payet was raised on La Reunion and began his career with AS Saint-Philippe and JS Saint-Pierroise before moving to France to play for Le Havre.

He returned home in 2004 to win the Reunion Cup with AS Excelsior before making it big with Nantes, Saint-Etienne, Lille, Marseille and now West Ham in Europe.

“That spell with Excelsior is what started my career,” he recalled. “I arrived in the Excelsior team in 2004 where I rubbed shoulders with greats of Reunion football. These are the players who formed me and made me become a man, and when I moved from Reunion to Nantes I was much stronger physically and mentally.”

For Payet, returning home is always an emotional experience, particularly when he witnessed a stand being named in his honour at his old club in Saint-Philippe.

He will enjoy a well-earned break before returning to training with the Hammers on Friday 5 August.

“It's good to be home,” he continued. “In addition, this is the first time I have been welcomed like that. It stirs a lot of emotions. I can see what we did with the team of France at Euro 2016 has not gone unnoticed, especially for me as a Reunionnais. This island is the ultimate community.

“I want to say a big thank you, because I have been touched by this reception. I have just been to the stadium where I first played, and they have now named a stand with my name on it!”

“After my trip, I am due to return to training with West Ham at the start of August.”