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In praise of Kylian Mbappé, the young god

Arguably the greatest footballer in the world has inspired a plethora of songs across Europe

Kylian Mbappé greets fans on his return to Bondy after France’s victory in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty

Two and a half thousand years ago, the Greek lyric poet Pindar wrote in praise of heroes. His odes to the winning athletes of the four great Panhellenic festivals, including the Olympic Games, were outrageously adoring, drawing a direct line between the outstanding victories of these sportsmen and the favour of the gods themselves. In the first and best of these odes, which were intended for public performance by musicians, he wrote: “Song needs deeds to celebrate, and success needs songs to make the areta [excellence] last.”

Not much has changed since then. While the stock of Olympians has fallen a bit, footballers are now the ultimate sporting heroes. Songs are still sung in their honour, and not just on the terraces. This applies to no one more than Kylian Mbappé. Arguably the greatest footballer in the world, earlier this month he broke the Paris Saint-Germain goalscoring record, with 201 goals in just 247 games, the achievement coming hot on the heels of being crowned top scorer in last year’s World Cup.

Mbappé’s story is the stuff of fairytales. He went from kickabouts at the housing projects of Bondy in the deprived Paris suburban département of Seine-Saint-Denis to signing for PSG aged 18 for a whopping €180m. That deal made him the second most expensive player of all time. The following year, while still in his teens, he scored four goals for France in the World Cup in Russia and became the second teenager in history to score in a World Cup final – the first was none other than Pelé, a full 60 years before.

France, of course, won that tournament, and songs about Mbappé soon started popping up. French urban pop artist Vegedream’s anthemic Ramenez la coupe à la maison (Bring the Cup Back Home) mentioned almost the whole of the French squad, but singled Mbappé out for particular praise, giving a shopping list of his moves: “Passement de jambe, crochet à gauche, à droite/ Kylian Mbappé/ Accélération, virgule, petit-pont, frappe” (“Step over, left hook, right/ Acceleration, flip flap, nutmeg, strike”).

Released just days after the World Cup final, Vegedream’s song finishes with the feel-good refrain “On est ensemble/ On est ensemble” (“We are together/ We are together”) and predictably went to No 1 in France, although it had enough of the summer anthem about it to become a Top 10 hit elsewhere in Europe too.

Indeed, Mbappé sealed his legendary status to such an extent in 2018 that it was not only French musicians who set about writing songs about his brilliance – minor rappers across the continent have rhymed about him too. Bulgarian rapper FYRE repeated the forward’s name no less than 60 times in his song, predictably called Kylian Mbappé, of that World Cup year. Italian act Fader called the player nothing less than “Superman” in his trap-flavoured song of the following year, while Basel-based Albanian rapper REEALT’s Mbappé from 2021 took the same repetitive but effective approach as FYRE.

More prominently, the Russian-born, Ukraine-raised, Berlin-based rapper Capital Bra, who has had a raft of hits in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, released a song in 2021 with gangsta rappers Farid Bang and Kontra K which used Mbappé as a symbol of wealth, mentioning the star in the same breath as Lamborghini, Cartier and Dior.

In the age of conspicuous consumption, the footballer really is king, and Mbappé himself is well aware of the responsibility that comes with his huge earnings at PSG (the new contract he signed last year is worth €250m over three years). He is known for his philanthropy, and his foundation Inspired by KM seeks to help children fulfil their dreams. One of the foundation’s projects is with the Paris Philharmonic, and Mbappé in fact has a deep – and surprising – connection to music. While he was being trained up for a stellar future in football from the age of six, he also attended the Conservatoire de Bondy, where he learned to read music and play that most genteel of instruments, the flute. When he visited Bondy’s Leo Lagrange stadium for the first time since France won the World Cup in 2018, the mayor presented him with a silver flute.

It seems apt that the flute was the most prized of instruments among the Greeks, invented by the goddess Athena herself, and reserved for special occasions due to it being “violently exciting” in its effect, according to Aristotle. For this young god of football, whose game thrills the world, what could be more fitting?

KYLIAN MBAPPÉ in five songs
Vegedream, Ramenez la coupe à la maison (2018)
The Orléans-born artist announces himself as “Ça c’est Vegedream de Gagnoa” at the start of this track, having spent part of his childhood in that Ivoirian city, and the song has an addictively Afrobeat flavour.

FYRE, Kylian Mbappé (2018)
The Sofia-born FYRE made this track with music producer Vitezz. The duo call themselves TEAM 02 after the Sofia telephone area code, but their sense of civic pride didn’t stop them from praising the French legend as a “young champion”.

Dennis and Jesko, Der Mbappé Song (2021)
The comedy duo praised Mbappé as “Der Junge Gott von PSG” (“The young god of PSG”) and “Schnell wie der TGV” (“Faster than the TGV”) on this horribly catchy novelty song.

Capital Bra, Farid Bang and Kontra K, Mbappé (2021)
The gangster rappers’ German-language track emphasised the footballer’s wealth. Capital Bra had already dedicated a song to Mbappé’s PSG teammate Neymar in 2018 which did much the same thing and went to No 1 in Germany and Austria.

The drill artist from Thessaloniki is one of many emerging rap stars across Europe to be inspired by Mbappé.


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