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Mbappe’s star power looms large in home city Bondy

12/17/22, 1:32 PM

126Asia Sports

As France's Kylian Mbappe (23) prepares for the World Cup final on Sunday in Qatar, his presence is felt strongly in Bondy, the unassuming suburb of Paris where he grew up.

"Ah, Kylian, the rising star - the star of the stars," 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, said Kamel Ghehioueche.

Local pride in the city's favorite son is palpable, piercing the winter gloom ahead of the match between the reigning champions and Argentina on Sunday.

Mbappe will face his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Lionel Messi in his second World Cup final.

"Kiki, we love you!" said Melissa Toumi, who crossed paths with Mbappe during his youth, training on the football pitch.

The famous striker's image towers behind her in the parking lot of burger joint Harry's Cafe, covering one side of a 10-story building.

"We want the third star," said her friend Dounia Zeghadi 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 Mbappe shot to fame.

"Kylian, bring home the prize, inshallah," said Frikhi Mansour, who recalled regularly cutting Mbappe'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.

Mbappe is "the pride of the city," said Elisa Doughty, an American who was drawn to Bondy for its mix of nationalities and its more affordable housing.

Bondy's architecture is also a mix, with neat rows of village houses interspersed between cement apartment blocks and highways that slice through the urban sprawl. Bondy is known for its large population of migrants from Central and North Africa.

Mbappe's parents, handball player Fayza Lamari and soccer coach Wilfried Mbappe, are also well-known in the city for their charitable contributions.

"He hasn't forgotten. Sometimes when things heat up, we forget a bit where we're from," said retiree Marie-Helene Fontarnou.

"He is certainly leading the way for this next generation of football players," said Doughty, noting his success has energized local clubs.

The city has more rising stars to come, said Ghehioueche. "I don't think it will stop here."

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