My first World Cup final was for a £1.75 plastic toy and a colouring book… now I can emulate Pele, says Kylian Mbappe
KYLIAN MBAPPE played for a £1.75 plastic trophy in his very first “World Cup final”.
He also promised to buy a COLOURING BOOK for his team-mate if they won.
Offside SportsKylian Mbappe’s first’ World Cup final’ as a kid was played for toys and a colouring book[/caption]
ReutersMbappe is ready to emulate Pele by winning back-to-back World Cups[/caption]
Against Argentina on Sunday, the French superstar will try to emulate Brazil legend Pele by winning back-to-back World Cups.
But he first started dreaming of playing in the greatest showpiece in football as a kid growing up in the Paris suburb of Bondy.
Back then, Mbappe had posters of Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Neymar — now his team-mate at Paris Saint-Germain — adorning his bedroom wall.
And winning his school tournament was a matter of “life or death”.
Mbappe, 23, recalled: “Me and my friends, we did not hope to become footballers.
“We did not expect, we did not plan — we dreamed.
“I remember we had this tournament at our school — all the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth graders — and it was our World Cup.
“We were playing for this £1.75 plastic trophy, but we treated it like it was life or death. Your honour is always at stake.
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“And it’s funny, because the rule was that every team had to be mixed. Girls and boys.
“Well, unfortunately, not all the girls wanted to play in the tournament, so we had to really negotiate.
“I remember telling my friend that if she gave everything on the pitch and we won the cup, I would buy her a new colouring book. I was begging her.
“Maybe you think I’m exaggerating — but it really meant everything to us.
“We played for this £1.75 cup like it was the Jules Rimet Trophy. That’s just how it was.
“I’m sure it was difficult for my teachers. To them, I really apologise.
“I remember coming home from school one day with nine different warnings from the principal.
“Kylian did not do his homework; Kylian forgot his school supplies; Kylian was talking about football during maths.
“My head was in the clouds.”
His love affair with football has made him a multi-millionaire and taken him to Sunday’s glittering Qatar final against PSG team-mate Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
And it all started when he was just three.
I just wanted the ball. To me, the ball was everything
Mbappe told the Players’ Tribune: “With me, everything is football.
“When I was three, I was bought one of those little 4×4 electric toy trucks for my birthday.
“You could actually sit inside and drive it around. It had pedals and everything.
“My parents would let me drive from our house to the football pitch across the street, like I was a real footballer driving to training. I took my little routine very seriously.
“But as soon as I arrived, I always left the car in a corner to go play football.
“This cool 4×4 that made all my friends jealous — but I just didn’t care about it anymore.
“I just wanted the ball. To me, the ball was everything.”
PSG splashed out a whopping £162million to sign Mbappe from Monaco in June 2018 — a world-record fee for a teenager.
He has already netted 250 career goals, won five French League titles, three French Cups, two League Cups, a World Cup and the Nations League with France.
Mbappe’s also been voted his country’s Player of the Season three times — and he’s still only 23 for a few days at least.
He scored the final goal in France’s 4-2 World Cup final win over Croatia in Russia four years ago.
When I heard La Marseillaise, I could have cried
And he’s now bidding to stop 35-year-old GOAT Messi winning the only major honour to have eluded him during his glorious career.
Mbappe added: “Sometimes, even when you are really living something, it feels like a dream.
“It was the same feeling at the World Cup in Russia.
“You do not experience the World Cup as a person. You experience it as a child.
“Of all the memories, the one I will never forget is when we were standing in the tunnel before the first match against Australia, waiting to walk out.
“This is when it hit me, what I was living. I looked over at Ousmane Dembele and we were just smiling and shaking our heads.
“I said, ‘Look at us. The boy from Évreux. And the boy from Bondy. We are playing at the World Cup’.
“We walked onto the pitch and felt 65 million people behind us.
“When I heard La Marseillaise, I could have cried.
“So many of us who held the World Cup in our hands that summer grew up in the suburbs. The banlieues.
“We are the crazy dreamers. And lucky for us, dreaming is free.”
On Sunday in Qatar’s Lusail Stadium in front of the watching world, Mbappe will dream of lifting not a plastic toy, but the 36cm £20m real thing.
Full interview at theplayerstribune.com.