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N'Golo Kante: The Incredible Rise Of France's Diminutive Genius

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Standing barely 5-and-a-half-feet tall, he may be hard to spot if you are not consciously looking for him. He's not stylish like Griezmann, doesn't invite attention like Mbappe, nor does he sport special hairdos like Paul Pogba. He's almost like a Ninja, if you may call him. His tireless running across the field has often made pundits wonder whether he's got an extra pair of lungs.

That's N'Golo Kante for you – a man whose tireless work ethic, dedication, and sincerity has made him rise from the 6th division of French football to the heights of two Premier League trophies, a Players' Player of the Year trophy, and a Ballon D'Or nomination. Currently, he's at cusp of lifting a FIFA World Cup for France.

N'Golo Kante: The Incredible Rise Of France's Diminutive Genius© Reuters

N'Golo Kante grew up in a Parisian suburb, opposite River Sienne. His diminutive figure often made local coaches wonder whether he would be able to hold his own in a game of football. But that's the irony of humans – we always equate size to excellence when in fact some of the biggest sporting icons have been short, right from Diego Maradona to Sachin Tendulkar. 

Kante has always been too humble for his own good. He didn't acknowledge his own talent, and several rejections by clubs like Rennes, Lorient and Clairefontaine made him feel that he should pursue a professional life. He therefore completed his degree in Accountancy, but as fate would have it, got drawn into football after getting a call from Boulogne's reserve squad. They played in the 6th Division of the French football league – one that you wouldn't know anything about unless you do some first-hand research.

N'Golo Kante: The Incredible Rise Of France's Diminutive Genius© Reuters

Boulogne reserves got promoted to the 5th division, and their main team to the 3rd division. In 2012, he earned a call from their main team but got his debut only on the last day of the Ligue 2 season. Boulogne were already relegated, and he got to display his skill for barely 11 minutes. But Kante took that chance, as he always has in his life. He was subsequently brought by another Ligue 2 club Caen, and Kante played a major role in Caen's promotion to Ligue 1 that year.

In a matter of 3 years, Kante went from playing for a nondescript 6th tier club to the first division of French football. This attracted the attention of scouts from a certain Leicester City, and the rest is a fairy tale. 3 years on, Kante has 2 Premier League medals and several individual honors to his name. He may not be among the goals or assists because that's not his role, but if France win the World Cup on Sunday, every football lover will know his immense role in stopping opposition attacks and initiating that of his own team.

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