How the Paris suburbs became football's biggest talent factory

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Then there are the opportunities. The Ile-de-France area has 1,100 registered football clubs with around 325,000 young players signed up. Some of those clubs are famed for attracting the right talent.

Mbappe and Saliba played together at AS Bondy. Henry and Saha – both from immigrant families who came from Guadeloupe – trained at the infamous Clairefontaine academy after being spotted at Ile-de-France clubs.

Riyad Mahrez, whose family came to the area from Algeria, played for AAS Sarcelles, the fourth biggest club in France, who have also sent players to Serie A, Manchester United and Hoffenheim.

“The level of the Ile-de-France championship for young people is the highest in France. It’s one of the highest in Europe I’d say!” says Sarcelles coach Mohamed Coulibaly to Sky Sports. “We have the best amateur regional teams and are capable to compete with professional clubs from all over the world.

“The secret of the streets of Paris is that everyone wants to assert themselves and everyone wants to impose themselves. It’s like a small jungle!

“At 16, 17, 18 years old, [Mahrez] still had the soul of a nine-year-old child. Even when he was struggling at 14 or 15, and didn’t play much, he always had this fire where he said: ‘I’m going to become a professional’.”

Not all make it though. While the streets contain a haven for football’s young talent, it is not always a safe one. The Ile-de-France region has a poverty weight of 15.5 per cent, while concerning crime levels have caused it to gain an unwanted reputation.

“It’s a town that is a bit tough,” says Saha. “You have to be careful not doing the wrong stuff, or meeting the wrong people.

“I have a few friends more talented than me, and were capable of doing great things, they picked the wrong choices and roads, met the wrong people. Then it’s too late.”

But clubs try to help with those issues. Anthony Martial recalls the help of coaches and “youth educators” who have helped put players on the right path.

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