Dubai: Former Al Ain and Al Nasr striker Jires Kembo Ekoko, the adopted brother of France forward Kylian Mbappe, wasn’t surprised that his sibling scored twice against Argentina on Saturday.
France are now through to the World Cup quarter-finals against Uruguay on Friday after that 4-3 Last 16 win over Lionel Messi’s La Albiceleste, and Ekoko, 30, believes the speedy 19-year-old is just warming up.
“I believe that he will become one of the best players in the world in years to come,” he had previously said of Mbappe, while playing in the UAE’s Arabian Gulf League for five years from 2012 to 2017 before moving to Turkey’s Bursaspor.
That view didn’t change outside the stadium.
“I have lived an extraordinary day in Kazan,” Kembo told reporters. “I’m not surprised. He refuses to bow to pressure, always tries his best and takes part in the World Cup with great concentration and wants to do more.
“Playing against Argentina is not easy at any time, but when he was up against Messi, he played without fear or hesitation, proving he could fight the stars and be among the best as I had predicted,” he was quoted in the Arabic media.
Kembo, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but was sent aged six to study in France by his parents who placed him with the Mbappe family — who are of mixed Cameroonian and Algerian descent — said he hoped his brother wouldn’t now have to endure the “soap bubble” of transfer distractions.
“At first, the family agreed and encouraged him to join Monaco. We are aware of how the club has encouraged young talent throughout history and given them the opportunity.
“Through playing with Monaco, he emerged on the bench. Then he started against Manchester City in the Champions League two seasons ago and moved to Paris Saint Germain to stay in France near his family while staying in an environment that allowed him to play every week instead of being on the bench, which enables him to continue his development.
“One of the most important secrets of his success is that he’s mad about football and only thinks about that, he tries to learn more and sees anything related to it, it takes up all of his day.
“It’s a matter of pride, but each player must have his or her own style and try not to imitate another player,” he added of the inevitable comparisons that will now made between Mbappe and other greats.
Both Kembo and Mbappe were in different generations of the AS Bondy youth team, who were coached by Mbappe’s dad and agent Wilfried. Kembo started in 1997 before going to Clairefontaine and Rennes before joining Al Ain in 2012. Mbappe had already begun a similar path, going from AS Bondy to Clairefontaine before joining Monaco in 2013. Despite links to Real Madrid, he joined PSG on loan last summer.