Kylian Mbappé: Why does the French team striker speak out about the elections?

Kylian Mbappé: Why does the French team striker speak out about the elections?
Kylian Mbappé: Why does the French team striker speak out about the elections?

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Play video, “Kylian Mbappé urges youth vote to counter ‘extremists'”, Duration 1.0701:07

Video caption, French elections: Kylian Mbappé calls to vote against “extremists”.

17 minutes ago

Even before his role in France’s victory against Austria (1-0) at Euro 2024, Kylian Mbappé made headlines because he spoke about the upcoming French elections.

“The extremists are at the gates of power,” warned the captain of the France team during his pre-match press conference, adding: “I do not want to represent a country that does not correspond to my values ​​or to our values.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced early legislative elections after Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) party won France’s European elections earlier this month.

A first round of voting will take place on June 30, the second on July 7.

Mbappé’s comments sparked heated debate in France. We wonder to what extent footballers should get involved in politics.

Mbappé is not the only one in the France team to have addressed the subject in recent days. Ousmane Dembélé, Olivier Giroud and Benjamin Pavard all encouraged their compatriots to vote. Marcus Thuram went further by urging the French people to prevent the RN from coming to power.

“The situation is very, very serious,” said the Inter Milan striker. “This is the sad reality of our society today.”

“As a citizen, whether it is you or me, we must all fight every day so that this does not happen and that the RN does not succeed,” argued Thuram.

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The French Football Federation later made it clear that it was politically neutral as an organization, although players were allowed to speak freely.

Mbappé carefully avoided mentioning the name of any political party. But he said he shared Thuram’s concerns.

“I share the same values ​​as Marcus,” Mbappé said, speaking to journalists on Sunday. “I talk about the values ​​of tolerance, diversity and respect. Of course, I am with him.”

Thuram’s intervention was unusual for a French footballer, but not unexpected. His father, Lilian Thuram, former right back of the France team, is an activist in the fight against racism. He named his son after Jamaican civil rights activist Marcus Garvey. Thuram junior has spoken out in the past to denounce discrimination.

Thuram and Mbappé encouraged the French to vote in the next elections.

Photo credit, Getty Images

Image caption, Thuram and Mbappé encouraged the French to vote in the next elections.

Mbappé’s comments are more unusual. Although he has ties to the former socialist mayor of his hometown of Bondy, Sylvine Thomassin – who is a close friend of his mother, Fayza Lamari – he had never expressed a political opinion.

The 25-year-old superstar, who joined Real Madrid shortly before the start of the European Championship, has long been courted by the French political establishment due to his immense national popularity and his way of communicating.

Macron first invited him to a diplomatic lunch at the Élysée Palace in February 2018, when Mbappé was just 19 years old.

More recently, Macron helped persuade Mbappé to stay in France, when he considered leaving Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in 2022.

Macron also pressured Real Madrid to reverse its decision to ban its players – including Mbappé – from participating in this summer’s Olympic football tournament in Paris.

Mbappé attended another dinner at the Élysée Palace in February this year, organized in honor of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim. Macron reportedly tried to encourage Qatar, owner of PSG since 2011, to use its broadcasting company BeIn Sports to break the deadlock in negotiations over broadcast rights for French Ligue 1 championship matches from next season.

The National Rally criticized Mbappé for his comments on the elections. “I don’t expect people disconnected from reality to give lessons to the French,” said the party’s vice-president, Sébastien Chenu.

French President Emmanuel Macron (middle) visited the French team before leaving for the Euro.

Photo credit, Getty Images

Image caption, French President Emmanuel Macron (middle) visited the French team before leaving for the Euro.

French footballers have always been reluctant to speak publicly about politics. Zinedine Zidane, Mbappé’s predecessor as captain of the Blues, made a similar intervention in April 2002, urging people not to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen – Marine’s father and founder of the RN – in the election. presidential.

Young voters, to whom Mbappé mainly addressed his message, are a key target for the parties competing in the French elections. Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old president of the RN, is a very prolific user of TikTok. His anti-immigration party received 25% of the votes of 18-24 year olds in recent European polls.

Could the interventions of Mbappé and Thuram shake things up politically?

“The debate around this issue could have an impact on the elections, in the sense that it could mobilize young voters, who perhaps did not think about voting or who did not even know that there were elections,” explains Philippe Marlière, professor of French and European politics at University College London.

“Abstention is still high among young voters in France, particularly those from the suburbs and ethnic minorities. Mbappé and Thuram both come from the suburbs and are both from ethnic minorities. Their warning is unlikely to have impact on the [électeurs] whites, workers and the unemployed who support Marine Le Pen. But for young people in the suburbs who weren’t thinking about voting, this could be a wake-up call,” he analyzes.

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