France’s star footballer Kylian Mbappe arrived in Cameroon to an ecstatic welcome from fans Thursday for a visit that includes charity work with deaf children and a trip to his father’s village.
Most of those that greeted the 24-year-old forward were dressed in his Paris Saint-Germain team’s football jersey for the occasion.
According to a local journalist, the masses excitedly screamed his name as he emerged from the airport in the capital Yaounde.
A group of about a hundred traditional dancers performed in his honour. Smiling widely, the footballer waved to the crowd who were kept at a distance by police, before being whisked away in an SUV with tinted windows.
“We are proud to see our Cameroonian brother. We want to offer him a very warm welcome,” high-school student Vannel Kunde, 16, enthused.
Mbappe, who doubles as captain of France’s national team, will stay during his visit lasting several days at a hotel complex belonging to the family of French former tennis champion Yannick Noah, who lives in Yaounde.
He is set to visit a school for youngsters who are deaf and hard of hearing in the capital’s suburbs, according to his itinerary seen by media outlets.
He is also set to take part in a basketball game, with expectations it will involve retired NBA player Joakim Noah, the son of Yannick. Later on, he takes part in a football match against second division Cameroon club FC Vent d’Etoudi.
Saturday sees him head to the economic capital, Douala, to visit a school and then go to Djebale, his father Wilfried Mbappe’s village. His father left Cameroon at a young age for France where he became a football trainer.
The trip is an opportunity for Mbappe to visit Yaounde and Douala, two schools supported by his own charitable foundation, Inspired by KM, his team in Paris said in a statement.
It’s also a chance to “follow in the footsteps of his ancestors in Djebale, to spend time with young Cameroonians”, it added.
Arsene Pinlap, 37, one of those waiting to catch a glimpse of Mbappe at the airport, spoke of “a pride” as a Cameroonian in welcoming the star to the west African country.
“But it’s also an honour to be able to see the best player in the world,” said the president of the PSG fan club in Yaounde.
Another fan, 18-year-old schoolgirl Armelle Ntsama said: “It’s a great joy for us, the children who love football.”
The French footballer is also due to meet some of the country’s officials, including Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute, his team said in the statement, adding he would discuss projects he would like to set up in Cameroon.
The visit comes amid ongoing questions about Mbappe’s future at Paris Saint-Germain.
Mbappe declared last month that he would not extend his contract, which expires next year, but has indicated he wants to remain for a final season.
The club must therefore sell the player in the current transfer window, otherwise they will likely lose him for nothing when his deal ends.
On Wednesday, PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi insisted that Mbappe “must sign a new contract” if he wants to remain at the club next season.
He joined PSG from Monaco in August 2017 in a 180-million-euro ($196-million) deal and has gone on to establish himself as one of the globe’s most prominent players.