Nineteen-year-old Kylian Mbappe has the world at his feet. But it wasn’t always like this.
France emerged victorious at the end of a tremendous FIFA world cup 2018 but in reality, it was the immigrants in the team that made the difference. One of them is Mbappe.
Dubbed as the next Cristiano Ronaldo, Mbappe grew up in a small room with the Portuguese star’s posters plastered all over his walls. At 19, Mbappe has a world cup winners’ medal, Ronaldo does not.
The teenager wowed the world with his lightening fast pace and amazing skills on the field. He bagged the young player of the tournament award and became the first teenager to score in a world cup final since Pele, one of the legends of the game.
But his greatest feat — and he has had many — is the hardships he had to overcome to become synonymous in stature with players much senior to him.
Like many of his teammates, the young world champion comes from an immigrant family; his father is from Cameroon and his mother, Algeria. He grew up in a banlieue, a derogatory word for a suburb, in the outskirts of Paris.
Today its top players from immigrant families come from the ghettos of Paris (banlieues). This year’s winning team has 8 members from the banlieues, all children of immigrants – including 19yro star Mbappe (Cameroonian and Algerian).— Shadi Rahimi (@shadirahimi) July 15, 2018
Of the 23 players in the French squad, more than half are of African or Arab descent.— Shadi Rahimi (@shadirahimi) July 15, 2018
France won the world cup with a great contribution from immigrants and children of immigrants but it has not been kind to them in recent times.
Certain neighborhoods have been banned to African and Arab immigrants since the 1980s. These are neglected societies with the poverty level thrice that of the country itself. The unemployment rate is doubled than the national average.
Despite the French squad having many Muslim players over the years like Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba, things are even worse for them in the country.
"If I score, I'm French. If I don't, I'm Arab," Benzema reportedly said a few years ago, talking about the discrimination he faces because of his Algerian heritage, despite being born on the French soil to French-born parents.
Muslims make up only 10 percent of the French population but they make almost 70 percent of their prison population. Moreover, the draconian anti-terrorism laws and hijab bans have not done French-Muslims any favors.
But Mbappe’s achievements and global recognition is a ray of hope for young kids in the banlieues.
Children from the young soccer star’s home banlieue of Bondy, where Mbappe spent his childhood playing soccer on an artificial turf, beam proudly when they talk of him.
"It makes me proud because he comes from the suburbs like me," Yanis Jean, a 14-year-old, said. "I want to be like him one day."
The neglected suburb has now become famous in Paris; it stages a huge mural of its most prominent soccer star.
"It makes me so happy because Mbappe comes from here so when people ask me where I play, I say AS Bondy and they immediately know where I come from,” 17-year-old Loutfi Bechareff said.
Mbappe might be a world champion but he has not forgotten his roots. The young soccer sensation announced he will donate his world cup earnings to Premiers de Cordee, a charity organization that teaches sports to ill or disabled children.
In soccer and in life, racial diversity makes a nation stronger, and in France’s case: the best in the world.
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach