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The Reason France Soccer Captain Kylian Mbappé Is Wearing a Mask at EURO 2024

3 minute read

France captain Kylian Mbappé led his team to victory in their EURO 2024 Round of 16 game against Belgium on Monday, with a deflected shot securing the team’s advancement.

The 25-year-old soccer star played his game in a face mask—a recent, and highly discussed, addition to his uniform.

Mbappé is wearing the mask after he broke his nose in a collision in France’s opening game—a 1-0 win against Austria on June 17. In the Austria game, Mbappé was invaluable, forcing the only goal with a cross that deflected in off Maximilian Wöber’s head. 

Yet, he collided with the shoulder of Austria defender Kevin Danso, and after being attended to by medical staff, he was escorted off the pitch. He was taken to a hospital in Dusseldorf and the France's Football Federation (FFF) confirmed the extent of the injury.

“The first responses were quite positive as there is no surgery planned for the moment,” FFF President Diallo said in a press conference on June 18.

Mbappé has been handling the situation with humor on social media. Soon after the injury, he joked on X (formerly Twitter), asking his fans: “Any ideas for masks?” Two days later, he posted on his Instagram a photo of him in the Belgium game, with the accompanying caption “Without risks, there are no victories,” leading most to anticipate his return to the competition.

Though the Real Madrid star did not need surgery, he missed France’s game against the Netherlands on June 21, which ended in a draw. He then returned to help his team against Poland in their last group stage game, scoring a goal—his first at a European Championship. Yet, a strike from Robert Lewandowski tied the game up. 

Mbappé has been open about how difficult the mask has been for him, though the hope is that his goal represents progress. He noted how it limits his vision, and forces his sweat to build up on his face. Still, he recognizes its necessity after his injury.

“I didn’t think it was going to be, but playing with a mask is an absolute horror,” Mbappé said in a press conference in Dusseldorf on June 30, ahead of the team’s Belgium victory. “The first few days I felt like I was wearing 3D glasses.”

Social media onlookers noticed Mbappé’s mask, creating drawings of him as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a reference to his welcome gift from Paris Saint-Germain teammate Thaigo Silva back when he first joined the team in 2017. Others noted the mask’s likeness to Batman’s, and compared the soccer star himself to the superhero.

Fans in the stands have decided to wear their own masks in solidarity, both black like Mbappé’s own, and some sillier options.

He shared with the media that it was incredibly hard to sit as an unused substitute in the Netherlands game; the Golden Boot winner of the 2022 World Cup is used to stepping up and shooting goals. But, he was grateful to return to the pitch, knowing that his broken nose, yet to be operated on, could make him a target for rough play.

France is set to play Portugal, and the country’s lead soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, on Friday, July 5. The match will mark Mbappé’s first quarterfinals ever at a EURO championship.

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