Situation in our country is dire and we need to act: French captain Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe has made it clear that he is against extreme views and ideas that divide people. File photo: Reuters/Stephane Mahe

Dusseldorf (Germany): Kylian Mbappe found himself at the centre of his country's political turmoil on the eve of France's opening game at Euro 2024 on Sunday, describing the tumultuous events back home as a pivotal moment for French history.

Usual questions about the challenge Austria might pose in the Group D clash in Duesseldorf were relegated at the pre-match media conference with Mbappe speaking openly about his fears, saying the situation in France 'was dire'.

"This is a never-seen-before event," Mbappe, France's talisman, told reporters. "And that is why I want to talk to the whole of the French people, but also the youth.

"We are a generation that can make a difference. We see the extremes are knocking on the door of power and we have the opportunity to shape our country's future."

On Saturday the French football federation called for the national team's neutrality to be respected and for Les Bleus not to be politicised following President Emmanuel Macron's shock announcement a week ago to call a snap parliamentary elections for later this month after he was trounced in the European Union vote by Marine Le Pen's far-right party.

The move plunged France into political uncertainty and has roiled financial markets, with Macron's gamble offering the far-right a shot at real political power that could weaken his presidency three years before it ends.

Opinion polls project the far-right National Rally (RN) could for the first time top the June 30 and July 7 vote, but may fall short of an absolute majority to govern alone.

While saying that it rejected any pressure and political use of the national team, the French federation said players were free to express their views.

Forward Marcus Thuram urged people to 'fight daily' to prevent RN from gaining power, and Mbappe tackled the situation head-on.

"I share his opinion. I share the same opinion when I spoke about diversity, tolerance and respect," Mbappe, who will join Real Madrid after the tournament, said.

"The game tomorrow (Monday 12.30 am IST) is very important. I think that I am well placed to say and I've said it until I'm blue in the face, but there is a situation that is even more important than the game.

"Kylian Mbappe is against extreme views and against ideas that divide people. I want to be proud to represent France, I don't want to represent a country that doesn't correspond to my values, or our values."

UEFA has strong rules against teams or players making political statements but Mbappe did not rule that out on Monday, although he said they did not want to steal the spotlight.

"Everyone cares. Everyone understands the situation in France. There are some people who feel more comfortable saying something and speaking out," the 25-year-old Parisian said.

"We want to protect all of our players and obviously protect the French team. But we have thought about this and I think we will be doing something. So keep your eyes peeled.

"People say don't mix football and politics but here we are talking about a situation that's really important, more important than the game. The situation in our country is dire and we need to act."

French winger Ousmane Dembele had earlier said "the alarm bell, I think it has been sounded," and urged people to mobilise and vote, as did teammate Olivier Giroud, who said there had been no impact on the team's preparation because of the political situation.

Despite France's build-up being overshadowed by politics, Mbappe said the team was focussed on beating Austria.

"We've got our heads down and we know just how important the game is, we have prepared as best as possible," he said.

"It's up to me as captain and the other senior players to make sure we are not disconnected to the world but we are competing and defending the colours of our country."

Coach Didier Deschamps said he respected his players right to their political views.

"It's their free will," he said. "We must recognise they are great players but also French citizens and they are not immune or indifferent to the situation in the country."

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.