French minister lauds 'exemplary' Mbappe election plea

French minister lauds 'exemplary' Mbappe election plea

June 17, 2024 at 2:05 PM
Mbappe has waded into the election controversy
Mbappe has waded into the election controversy. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Source: AFP

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France's sports minister, Amelie Oudea-Castera, on Monday hailed as exemplary a statement by football superstar Kylian Mbappe urging voters not to back extremes in snap elections called by President Emmanuel Macron to combat the far right.

Mbappe, representing France at the Euro 2024 tournament in Germany, said he was "against extremes and divisive ideas" and urged young people to vote at a "crucial moment" in French history.

The comments from Mbappe, 25, one of the icons of modern France, have sparked a stream of controversy, with figures on the right warning him against interfering in politics.

"Kylian spoke in an absolutely exemplary manner yesterday (Sunday). He wanted to speak to young people at a totally unprecedented and decisive moment for the future," of the country, said Oudea-Castera.

France's men's football team has long been seen as a beacon for diversity in the country. The French Football Federation has urged against "any form of pressure and political use of the French team".

"I hope I will still be proud to wear this shirt after July 7," said Mbappe, referring to the second round of the elections.

The striker defended comments made on Saturday by his teammate Marcus Thuram, saying he "had not gone too far" in calling on the country "to fight every day to stop" the RN winning the elections.

"Today we can all see that extremists are very close to winning power and we have the opportunity to choose the future of our country," Mbappe said.

On Sunday, several dozen French sports personalities including tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and athlete Marie-Jose Perec also called for a vote against the far right, in an op-ed for L'Equipe sports daily.

"We see that our athletes want to make their voices heard," added Oudea-Castera, herself a former professional tennis player, as she attended rehearsals for the Olympics opening ceremony on the River Seine.

"It's an attitude that is courageous, committed, and that can be applauded, that is deeply respectable."

Former French football star Thierry Henry, now coach of the French Olympic team, also added his voice, urging voters to "block the extremes".

"I think there is something that is still important, what can block the extremes is to go and vote. So go and vote," he told reporters.

"Personally, I am against anything that divides and a little more for anything that can unite," he added.

Initial polls suggest the far-right National Rally (RN) may win the largest number of votes in the election but may struggle to form an overall majority.

AFP photo