Kylian Mbappe, Will The Teen Hero Of Russia 2018 Heal France’s Racial Divide?

By Pinky Khoabane

KYLIAN MBAPPE revealed he would donate around €20,000 per match fee to charity because he doesnt believe he must be paid to play for his country. At 19 years old, one of three youngest players to ever play in the World Cup, he scored a goal in the final making him the youngest player since football legend Pele in 1958 to score in the World Cup Final. 

The Paris Saint Germain forward joined Pele and Italian legend Guiseppe Bergomi when he scored four goals at Russia2018.

Kylian’s father, Wilfred Mbappe, who has Cameroonian and Nigerian roots, was once a refuge, who went to France for greener pastures. He married an Algerian-French woman Fayza, who’s an  ex-handball player.

Kylian was given a Yoruba middle name, Adesanmi, which means the “crown fits me”. Wilfred has an adopted son, Jirès Kembo Ekoko, a professional footballer of Congolese descent, and has a biological son and younger brother to Kylian, named Adeyemi Mbappe, in recognition of his Nigerian roots.

Adeyemi is a Yoruba name which means “the crown befits you”. Indeed, Adeyemi is the reason why Kylian celebrates his goals by posing with his arms crossed and thumbs up. Source “This is how my younger brother celebrated when he beat me in the FIFA  video game,” Mbappe said.

Mbappe was born in the poor suburb of Bondy, north east of Paris, on 20th December 1988. This is where he learnt and lived football. His stardom has shone a light on Paris’ underprivileged areas called “banlieues” on the outskirts of Paris which have suffered from political neglect and frequent police crackdowns. These are suburban towns made of tower blocks that are synonymous with poverty, crime, racial exclusion and unemployment which is higher than most parts of France; and some figures even put the unemployment rate here at two times higher than that of other parts of France.

 Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré. Their electrocution sparked the 2005 riots Photograph: Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP

It is at one of these banlieues that the electrocution of two teenagers who were on their way home from football sparked the three-week riots across French towns in 2005. The two were electrocuted in a substation where they were hiding after being chased by police Two days prior to the event, then President Nicolas Sarkozy had visited the area and promised he would deal with “scum”. His use of the word would not be forgotten.

Over a decade later, very little has changed for the immigrants who are marginalised and remain jobless because of their skin colour and the immigrant status of their parents.

France’s banlieues have produced a number of leading football stars including Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante and have come to be seen as the world’s biggest pool of budding footballers, some say even bigger than Sao Paolo in Brazil.

The question is whether the outpouring of pride in Mbappe in particular and the other pool of leading and budding footballers will heal the racial divisions in these areas which since the riots, remain divided on racial lines.

France striker Kylian Mbappe is giving away his World Cup bonus to charity now that the side have reached the quarterfinals. Excerpt

Mbappe, 19, is a patron of the Premiers de Cordée association, a charity which helps children with disabilities play sport. The forward will donate around €20,000 per match after scoring a fine brace to help France beat Argentina 4-3 to progress to the final eight. He became the first teenager to score at least twice in a World Cup match since Pele vs. Sweden in 1958.

“The player’s entourage and his family made us aware of his gesture a few days ago,” Sebastien Ruffin, director general of Premiers de Cordée, said: “We do not want to go any further than that, because the bonus will only be paid if France reach the quarterfinals. In any case, we are touched by Kylian’s gesture. This is something very personal — we never ask for any financial help from our ambassadors.

“It is a bit premature to talk about what we might use the money for. However, we will know more once it is guaranteed.

“Kylian is a great person. When his schedule allows him to, enjoys getting involved with us. He is very good with the children and always finds the right words to encourage them. Sometimes, I even feel like he enjoys playing with the kids more than the kids themselves!”

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