“It’s not me who receives the French president, but the whole village”, announces the former Franco-Cameroonian tennis player, cap screwed on his head, in shorts and barefoot, in Etoudi, his neighborhood at the exit of the capital Yaoundé, which also houses the presidential palace.

After the solemnity of the interview with Cameroonian President Paul Biya, Emmanuel Macron should drop his jacket when he walks through the doors of the “Noah village”. This will be the first meeting between the two men.

At the entrance, a mischievous sign specifies that Roland-Garros, the place of the exploit which made the tennis player famous in 1983, is located 7,091 km away.

39 years after this coronation, the ex-champion remains, at 62, one of the most popular French people, thanks in particular to his success in music.

But it is now in Etoudi that he spends about six months a year, “and probably more time in the future”.

It is here that this native of Sedan (Ardennes), where his father Zacharie was a footballer, lived his childhood, between 2 and 12 years old, when his parents returned to his father’s country. “It was very different back then. I grew up in the middle of the bush, I went to the river because there was no water or electricity. Over time the town surrounded the village and there has become a district of Yaoundé”, he says.

– “My destiny” –

His roots in Etoudi were strengthened when he inherited the title of traditional chief on the death of his father in 2017.

He then decided to develop the “country club” that he had created on the family grounds, adding a bar, restaurant, tennis and basketball courts, but also pretty traditional-style bungalows in the middle of a vast park at lush vegetation.

Yannick Noah also pays a lot of attention to the school created by his mother, a French teacher, in the garden of the family home in the 1960s. 400 students from the neighborhood are now educated there in French and English, both official languages ​​of Cameroon.

“My role as leader is above all to help the elderly and to do everything so that the children receive a good education,” he explains.

After welcoming Emmanuel Macron at the entrance to the “Noah village”, he will lead him to the family vault, a simple white building under large mango and avocado trees, where his grandfather and father rest. Other customary chiefs, in traditional outfits, will be present there, testifying to the importance for Yannick Noah of the “spiritual dimension” of this place where he “dialogues with the ancestors”.

Then, in the park, Emmanuel Macron will meet a dozen young Cameroonians and French people who have worked together on the future of relations between Yaoundé and Paris, good governance, the environment and issues of colonial memory.

“As Franco-Cameroonians, I am always sensitive to relations between the two countries. I don’t have much choice, it’s my destiny”, smiles Yannick Noah, who however does not want to answer political questions, which are always sensitive. in Cameroon, led for almost 40 years by Paul Biya.

Yannick Noah hopes that the “Noah village” will become the meeting place for his five children, who live “a bit all over the world”, and his grandchildren so that they “cultivate their Cameroonian roots”.

In the evening, the reception will end with a concert by young Cameroonian musicians, before the master of the place takes the microphone, as he often does unexpectedly, for “three, four or… ten songs”. Including his dance hits Saga Africa, Métisse and Back to Africa…