As French star Kylian Mbappé gears up for the World Cup final on Sunday in Qatar, the forward’s presence is also felt strongly in Bondy, the satellite city of Paris where he grew up.
“Ah, Kylian, the rising star – the star of the stars,” said Kamel Ghehioueche, 41, bundled up in front of the city hall, an austere, concrete building from the 1960s, as parking agents cleared a lot for the Christmas market.
Local enthusiasm for the city’s favorite son is palpable, piercing through the winter gloom ahead of Sunday’s match between the reigning champions and Argentina.
For his second World Cup final, Mbappé, 23, will be playing against his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Lionel Messi.
“Kiki, we love you!” said Melissa Toumi, 28, who crossed paths with Mbappé during his youth, training on the soccer pitch.
In the parking lot of burger joint Harry’s Cafe, the famous striker’s image towers behind her, blanketing one side of a 10-story building.
“We want the third star,” said her friend Dounia Zeghadi, 34, referring to another star on the French team’s jersey signifying their third World Cup victory after their previous two in 1998 and 2018, where Mbappé shot to fame.
“Kylian, bring home the prize, inshallah,” said Frikhi Mansour, who recalled regularly cutting Mbappé’s hair when he was young.
“I told him, ‘When you’re a great football star, call me!’ It’s a great memory,” he said, pointing to photos snapped with the star draped in a barber’s cape.
MEZIESBLOG likes it that Deschamps said the cold virus affecting his squad before the final is “obviously a situation”. It’s very Glenn Hoddle, or indeed very late, great Graham Taylor.