Football won with Messi, Mbappe, and Mbappe

It was 97 seconds after Kylian Mbappe had kicked in a penalty goal that the ball looped towards him. It was only in the 81st minute that the ball was touched in live play. He had not demonstrated any particular feeling for the ball, as if he were an insignificant pawn in Messi’s game plan. He could now see the ball dipping towards him. If he had taken a touch, steadied himself, and taken aim, it would have been understandable. But nope. However, he chooses to go for a remarkable volley, as though he had been on a hot streak throughout the evening. Definitely a mike-dropping moment. What is his secret? As a young man growing up in Bondy, a tough neighborhood in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris, how did he make his way to the world cup stage in what appeared to be a nightmare?

He would know this information from his father. The Kylian of Monaco is to be sent back to Bondy, and the Bondy of Monaco is to be told to return to Monaco as soon as possible. It is Mbappe who we need here. Words of wisdom from when Mbappe was 15-16 when he had joined Monaco and was struggling to find his place. Every night he cried because he was benched a lot. That’s when his father had a heart-to-heart. Go for it, Bondy style! Don’t try to fit in with the new style, unleash yourself, unburden yourself. Before this World Cup, his father told L’Equipe that “that phase [early in Monaco] brought out the devil that slept in him.”

Each time Messi reached out to grab the trophy, Mbappe ripped it open; Messi met thin air. Throughout the game, Argentina played like a team who knew their destiny; they even cried after scoring goals, happy tears usually saved for the end of the game, when everything was done. For a long time, it seemed like they were right to be so emotional. Mbappe had let the devil sleep in him, Giroud threw a plastic bottle after he was substituted in anger, and even Griezmann, who would be everywhere in this updated version of a playmaker, was nowhere to be found.

In some ways, it would all start with Messi. His mind would be elsewhere as he lost the ball in the midfield to the right, and then Mbappe would do one-twos with Thuram and then unleash his jaw-dropping insouciance.

It’s a huge hoarding attached to a building at Bondy with Mbappe’s image. Despite Mbappe, it’s a saying that’s been around for a while. Sports didn’t do it, culture and education did, as the neighborhood worked to clean up its image after the 2005 riots. To see if children can be turned to music by the Maitrise de Radio France choir, a school was opened here. Afterward, the ‘Bondy Blog’ was launched, achieving world wide fame through its micro journalism in order to uplift the community. Cafe Philos mushroomed, where people studied music, art history, and astronomy, not as a means of obtaining a degree, but as a means of educating themselves. Of course, sports too. Mbappe grew up in this melting pot. He had just gotten here from Cameroon when his dad was just 1.

There’s a melting pot of cultures in our neighborhood – French, African, Asian, Arab, from every corner of the globe. You can’t really understand what it’s like if you’re not from here. People outside of France always talk about the banlieues badly. “Thugs” are talked about like they were invented here. The world is full of thugs, though. People all over the world are struggling. As a kid, I used to watch some of the toughest guys in the neighborhood carry groceries for my grandmother. That’s not something you see on the news. Mbappe wrote on Players Tribune, “You only hear about the bad stuff, never the good.”.

As a four-year-old, Mbappe would walk into AS Football club, where his dad worked, and hear conversations about tactics and football. It’s impossible that there’s a kid in the world who’s heard so many conversations … and has assimilated football concepts that others don’t understand until years later,” Athmane Brioche told the authors of ‘Mbappe’.

His room was wallpapered with Cristiano Ronaldo posters and he’d endlessly ape the Ronaldo side-step on the field. In fact, he even asked the barber to give him Zinedine Zidane’s haircut. “I didn’t understand that it was baldness,” he said years later.

Here are some highlights:

Zidane wanted to meet him at a Real Madrid training session when he was 14. As we approached Zidane’s car in the parking lot, he was driving an extremely nice vehicle. Upon meeting, he offered to drive me to the field for training. He was pointing at the front seat, like, “Go on, get in.” But I just froze and I asked,“Should I take off my shoes?”Hahaha! I don’t know why I said that. But it was Zizou’s car! He thought that was really funny. He said, “Of course not, come on, get in,” he writes in Players Tribune. “He drove me to the training pitch, and I was just thinking to myself, I am in Zizou’s car. I am Kylian from Bondy. This is not real. I must still be sleeping.”

As he waited at the tunnel before the first game against Australia at the last world cup, he would turn to Ousmane Dembele and say, “Look at us. He’s from Évreux. And the Bondy boy. “We’re playing at the World Cup.” When he heard the anthem, he started crying.

On another world cup final night, he had trouble finding himself and the ball for nearly 80 minutes. Just like that, the star exploded. Not only in the final, but throughout the tournament, no one looked remotely comfortable taking a shot against Emilio Martinez, but Mbappe did it three times in one night. A couple of beautiful crosses were also set up by him in the dying minutes, but his team-mates couldn’t get through. Messi’s greatest moment nearly came to an end because of this Bondy kid, who grew up with Ronaldo posters and thought Zidane’s baldness was cool. In order for Mbappe to win and Messi to not lose, the football gods had to intervene.


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