I’m a coach where Mbappe grew up – heartbreaking reason this poverty-stricken area produces so many football stars


LITTLE Ismael weaves like a magician, the ball glued to his feet as he glides past opponents on the thread-bare astroturf.

Moments later, the ten-year-old shoots into the bottom corner of the net — before triumphantly folding his arms in celebration, just like his footie idol Kylian Mbappe.

Kylian Mbappe does his famous goal celebrationCredit: Getty

Ten-year-old Ismael shoots into the bottom corner of the net — before triumphantly folding his arms in celebration, just like his footie idol MbappeCredit: Ian Whittaker

Coach Faher Aboubou, of club AS Bondy with the talented young players

Schoolboy Ismael plays on a pitch surrounded by 10ft metal fences in the same poverty stricken neighbourhood where the Paris Saint-Germain and France ace, 24 — currently the world’s most in-demand player — honed his amazing kills.

And we can reveal that, incredibly, almost half of France’s current national side hails from similar outlying areas around the capital known as the “banlieues”.

The Sun visited this week and found the conveyor belt of fresh talent is continuing to churn out mini-Mbappes at a rate that should worry England fans ahead of the Euros next summer.

Love your dream

Forward Mbappe is hot property this transfer window as clubs battle it out to sign him.

He has been linked to Chelsea and Barcelona, and snubbed a reported world-record £260million offer from Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal.

Coach Faher Aboubou, of club AS Bondy, where Mbappe began his career, reckons Ismael has the talent to follow in his hero’s footsteps.

And he revealed the lad is typical of the youngsters using football to escape suburbs riddled with gangs and drugs — and a world away from the City of Love’s chic cafes and restaurants.

Faher, 39, said: “In France there is a lot of prejudice, especially against young men with dark-coloured skin.

“The joy of football is that these divisions disappear.

“You are solely judged by your talent and, for this reason, these highly dedicated young footballers do the best they can to succeed.

“They dream and then they turn their dreams into reality.

“My advice to all of them is that they need to work hard at school, because only five or six out of 100 will have what it takes to reach the top level. But there are some terrific players here, including Ismael, who has incredible talent and never stops working.

“He is determined to succeed. He is just the type of player that could turn into the next Mbappe. An important part of the game is that it keeps youngsters away from the drugs and the street bandits that would otherwise destroy their lives.

“That is very important if you are living in a place like this.”

Residents of Parisian suburb Bondy whistle in astonishment when asked about Al Hilal’s reported mega-money bid for Mbappe, who is currently rated world No1.

It is understood the forward knocked back the offer as his heart is set on joining Real Madrid in Spain.

But he is now locked in a tense stand-off with the owners of PSG as he only has one year left on his contract, at the end of which he could move for free.

Wearing a Manchester United T-shirt with France and former Reds idol Paul Pogba’s name printed on the back, Faher added: “In the end it’s all about money, and there’s clearly too much money in the game.

“Players can lose their value if they become obsessed by money. My view is that Mbappe is a very intelligent footballer and he will be thinking about his long-term career. He’s not solely interested in what he can earn.

“Mbappe often comes back here to see the young players who, ultimately, are just like him. My view is that he’s going through a divorce at the moment with PSG.

“It’s a long and troubling separation and it means he’s not solely concentrated on what he does next. I think he will go to Real Madrid, if not this year, then next.”

The £605million-a-year deal offered to Mbappe by Al Hilal is mind-boggling compared to the average annual wage of £7,2000 in the banlieues.

In Bondy — a commuter town in the socialist-run Red Belt, north east of Paris — around 40 per cent of the housing is council-owned.

A large part of the 54,000 population is made up of African migrants, and 30 per cent of residents are classed as poor, defined in France as having a monthly income of less than £685.

Crime is above average, with around 3,000 incidents re-corded in the area last year. Rioting erupted after police shot dead 17-year-old Nael M in the Paris suburb of Nanterre in June.

Yet the French national team, which knocked England out of the World Cup last December, would have little depth were it not for the vast reservoir of talent it can call upon from its urban sprawl.

Current Les Bleus stars including Mike Maignan, 28, Alphonse Areola, 30, Dayot Upamecano, 24, Jules Kounde, 24, Ibrahima Konate, 24, Axel Disasi, 25, Youssouf Fofana, 24, Kingsley Coman, 27, and Christopher Nkunku, 25, all hail from the banlieues. Mbappe, Randal Kolo Muani, 24, and Arsenal defender William Saliba, 22, were raised amid Bondy’s graffiti-covered tower blocks.

Meanwhile, recent greats including Pogba, 30, N’Golo Kante, 32, Benjamin Mendy, 29, as well as former ace Thierry Henry, 45, all got their start in parts of the capital where most tourists would not dare tread.

Zakaria Benbetka watched the recent riots unfold from the window of the Fashion Sports store in Bondy, where he works as a shop assistant.

The 18-year-old said: “Babies are born with a football at their feet in the banlieues and they start playing as soon as they can walk.

“Football is a way to escape because some of the things we see here are not normal. During the riots I saw 100 people break into Darty electronics over the road. They smashed the windows and stole whatever they wanted. Some of the rioters had weapons, it was scary.

“But kids here are poor and hungry. Drugs are everywhere and some areas do not have electricity.

“That is why young people dedicate everything to football. They know they have to work harder than everyone else to get ahead.”

His friend Mehmet Celiblilet used to dream of being a footballer but now sells photographs to tourists in central Paris, earning between 40 and 70 euros a day.

Mehmet, 30, said: “When I was growing up, the only thing we could do was play football. We didn’t have video games back then. There weren’t any basketball courts or anything like that, so football was our life.” Gaetan Ekagna, 47, was walking with his son Andrew, five, when we bumped into him.

He immediately asked if we could find an agent for his older son, who is 17. Gaetan said: “My son is very talented and he would love to play for Chelsea one day.

“Everyone is obsessed with football in Bondy. I have lived here for 35 years after moving to France from the Congo. It is incredible how many footballers come from here.

“I don’t know why it is such a hotbed of talent and we need more football pitches in Bondy. Whenever my son wants to play he has to travel to another part of Paris.”

Rania Bouriche is a waitress at Harry’s Café in the banileue, next to which a huge mural of Mbappe has been painted above the words, “Love your dream and your dream will love you in return”.

The France ace grew up in a nearby tower block and is famed for celebrating his goals by folding his arms in front of his chest — a gesture he apparently stole from his younger brother Ethan when they were playing video games.

Rania, 20, said: “People here are football crazy. I still remember when France won the World Cup in 2018, the atmosphere was amazing.

“We weren’t as lucky last year as we lost to Argentina on penalties. But I’m sure with Mbappe in the team we will triumph at the Euros next summer — and the World Cup after that.

“In France, there is too much talent.”

Many of the current France squad including Konate, (front left), Kounde (front third left) and Mbappe, (front right) all hail from poor Paris suburbsCredit: Getty

France and Arsenal ace Thierry Henry with young Kylian

Bondy coach Faher says: ‘An important part of the game is that it keeps youngsters away from the drugs and street bandits that would otherwise destroy their lives’Credit: Ian Whittaker

Bondy local Rania standing in front of a Mbappe muralCredit: Ian Whittaker

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