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Gareth Southgate has been showered with praise this World Cup, with feminist publication The Pool even hailing him as "the symbol of positive masculinity we've been waiting for." Most notably, he comforted Colombian football player Mateus Uribe following England's first ever World Cup penalty shoot-out win. He quickly became the hero of this World Cup, not only for bringing the England team to a respectable 4th place but also for his kindness, empathy, and general lack of toxic masculinity.
This legacy will likely live on for some time and has already seen a temporary renaming of a tube station in London in his honour. However, it seems he wasn't the only man in the stadium who was breaking down the expected norms of men in football. Kylian Mbappe has a lot of kindness to share.
According to social media, not many people noticed that Pussy Riot, a feminist protest band from Russia, invaded the pitch during the France v Croatia match this past Sunday. In a video that the group released, they claimed that they were protesting the behaviour of the police in Russia and the lack of political competition. While Croatia's centre-back Dejan Lovren attempted to drag a member of the group off the pitch after pushing them to the ground, Kylian Mbappe was high-fiving them.
At just 19 years old, it appears that Mbappe is not only an extraordinary football player, scoring the French team four goals in this year's World Cup, but also a pretty good guy. In addition to this apparent support of Pussy Riot, it's been announced that Mbappe will donate the huge amount of money that he earned during the World Cup to a charity that gives free sports lessons to disabled and hospitalised children in France.
Premiers de Cordée will be in receipt of an exceptional sum with reports suggesting that the football player was paid approximately £17,000 a match before bonuses and will have also received a £265,000 bonus when France won the tournament.
Mbappe doesn't only donate money to this worthy cause, but, according to the charity, he regularly gives up his spare time to coach young people. He has been working with the charity for around a year now. According to CNN, Premiers de Cordée's spokeswoman Ninon Bardel claims that "Children have stars in their eyes when they see Kylian." She added that he works well with the children and that interacting with them comes entirely naturally to him. He believes that the children he is teaching are the stars, not him.
At such a young age, this footballer appears to have a firm grasp on what it means to be in the public eye and the positive influence that this can have on young people and the world around him. The debate as to whether football players deserve to be paid such a huge sum of money is endless, and one that is unlikely to come to a close in the next few decades. Still, Mbappe's kind gesture allows for others to benefit from his great wealth by creating a space for disabled and hospitalised children to achieve goals that they never previously believed they could, a cause clearly very close to his heart.
Between them, Southgate and Mbappe have left a mark on the 2018 World Cup that will likely not be forgotten. Amidst the fighting and vandalism on the streets at home, two men with wealth and influence sent powerful messages to the public in their own countries and nations around the world.
Does the behaviour of the two men signal a change in the way men in football will conduct themselves in the future, or are these just empty gestures designed to make them look like good people? Only time will tell.