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Mbappe’s star power looms large in home city Bondy

fifa world cup qatar 2022 france training
France's Kylian Mbappe during training

As French soccer star Kylian Mbappe gears up for the World Cup final on Sunday in Qatar, the striker’s presence is also felt strongly in Bondy, the unassuming 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, Mbappe, 23, will be playing against his Paris St Germain team mate Lionel Messi.

“Kiki, we love you!” said Melissa Toumi, 28, who crossed paths with Mbappe 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 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, 49, an American who was drawn to Bondy for its mix of nationalities and its more affordable housing.

Known for its large population of migrants from central and north Africa, 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.

Mbappe’s parents, handball player Fayza Lamari and soccer coach Wilfried Mbappe, are also household names; the family is known for its charitable contributions to the city.

“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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