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Undefeated Athlete of the Week

French star Kylian Mbappe to donate World Cup earnings to charity

Brave, fearless and all agents of change, athletes will be recognized every week for using their platform for the greater good

Even the most ardent soccer fan might’ve missed it: Kylian Mbappe, France’s young star, making a statement like Michael Jordan in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

By the 65th minute of Sunday’s FIFA World Cup championship, France held a comfortable 3-1 lead over Croatia. Paul Pogba, directing traffic along the left back line of the pitch, made a casual pass to defender Lucas Hernandez, who found himself just past midfield. Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic, not expecting Hernandez to go on the attack given the moment, made a half-hearted attempt to poke the ball away.

But Hernandez quickly spun off him and dribbled past two more would-be defenders until he found a wide-open Mbappe, who coolly collected the pass just above the 18-yard box. A soft touch of the ball to the outside created space for the speedy forward to drill a right-footed one-hopper past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic. The goal, France’s fourth and final tally, will hardly go down as the best goal of the day, but it made the biggest statement: I’m here.

As soon as the 19-year-old struck the ball, he knew he’d hit its sweet spot, and he stood there almost statuelike and watched it just long enough before running to the corner flag for his signature folded-arms-with-a-slight-lean celebration.

Mbappe, in that moment, was Jordan, whose “last shot” over a flailing Bryon Russell would cement his greatness and bag his sixth championship.

For Jordan, it was a fitting end — for a few years, anyway — to a marvelous career; for Mbappe, it signaled the beginning.

Pele, arguably soccer’s greatest player, tweeted to the Paris Saint-Germain star:

Blessed with Usain Bolt’s speed, Luis Suárez’s killer instinct and Neymar’s skill, Mbappe is on top of the world now — but it wasn’t so long ago that he was a 5-year-old kid in the poor suburb of Bondy, northeast of Paris, dreaming of playing for the French national team.

It comes as little surprise, then, that Mbappe, who scored four goals during the tournament, has decided to donate his earnings from the Cup to the charity Premiers de Cordée, which provides free sports instruction for children with disabilities, according to the French newspaper L’Equipe and multiple other news outlets.

The Frenchman is donating approximately $449,606 (seven Cup games plus a championship bonus), according to Sports Illustrated. For the gesture, Mbappe is the Undefeated Athlete of the Week.

Premiers de Cordée thanked Mbappe, who has supported the organization since last June, on Twitter:

The charity’s general manager, Sebastian Ruffin, was hardly surprised at the gesture. “Kylian, he’s a great person,” Ruffin said of Mbappe, who received the FIFA Young Player Award. “He has a very good [relationship] with children, he always finds the right [words] to encourage them. I sometimes even feel that [he] takes more pleasure to play with the kids than the kids themselves.”

As the third teenager to even play in the World Cup Final (after Pelé and Italian legend Giuseppe Bergomi), Mbappe has tons more memories to create and statements to make. Rumors had swirled that the teenager might be lured away from Ligue 1 champions PSG to European champions Real Madrid (especially after Cristiano Ronaldo bolted for Italian champs Juventus).

But Mbappe, who scored 21 goals in all competitions for PSG last year, made it clear he’s just getting started. “I will stay with PSG, continuing on my path with them,” Mbappe told reporters. “I am at the beginning of my career.”

Indeed.

And at the next World Cup, in Qatar in 2022, Mbappe will be all of 23. “My ambition is to go further. As far as my potential allows me, to my limits,” he said. “Winning a World Cup so young opens other doors. Now, I have to keep working. I’m only at the start of the road.”

Statement made.

Mark W. Wright is the director of special projects for The Undefeated. Born in England and raised in Jamaica, He sends referees running for the hills when they see the soccer dad (and Howard University alum) coming.