The National Sport of France is Soccer.
Soccer in France is a passion, uniting diverse communities with its thrilling matches and vibrant fan culture.
To learn more about sports culture in France, read our article about the most popular sports in France.
Table of Contents
#1 History of Soccer
- 1904: Foundation of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) by France and six other countries in Paris.
- 1919: Formation of the French Football Federation (Fédération Française de Football or FFF).
- 1930: France participates in the inaugural FIFA World Cup held in Uruguay.
- 1938: France hosts its first FIFA World Cup.
- 1958: France finishes third in the FIFA World Cup, with Just Fontaine setting the still-unbroken record of 13 goals in a single tournament.
- 1984: France wins its first major international trophy, the UEFA European Championship, led by captain Michel Platini.
- 1998: France wins its first FIFA World Cup on home soil, defeating Brazil.
- 2000: France captures the UEFA European Championship, becoming the first team to hold both the World Cup and European titles concurrently.
- 2018: France secures its second FIFA World Cup title in Russia.
#2 Culture and Traditions
Soccer has become an integral part of France’s cultural identity. As a unifying force, the sport transcends boundaries and brings people together, irrespective of age, race, or social background. The national team, known as “Les Bleus”, symbolizes the diversity and unity found within French society.
Iconic events and competitions keep French soccer enthusiasts hooked. Ligue 1, the top domestic league, is followed by millions. The Coupe de France, a nationwide knockout competition, has been a staple of the French soccer calendar since 1917, drawing the attention of fans and showcasing the country’s best talent.
Public viewings are a popular way of experiencing soccer during major international tournaments, with fans crowding squares, parks, and bars to cheer on their favorite teams. The widespread acclaim following France’s World Cup victories in 1998 and 2018 highlights the immense national pride derived from soccer.
#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment
📕 Rules & Gameplay
- Match Duration: A standard soccer match has two 45-minute halves with a 15-minute break in between.
- Objective: The main aim is for each team to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
- Players: Each team consists of 11 players, with one of them being the goalkeeper.
- Offside: A player is deemed offside if they are nearer to the opposition’s goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent when the ball is played to them.
- Fouls: Free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for various rules infringements.
⚙️ Equipment & Gear
- Ball: Round, made of leather or other suitable materials.
- Goalposts: Positioned at each end of the field, standing 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
- Kits: Teams wear different-colored kits, with goalkeepers dressed in distinct colors for easy identification.
- Shin Guards: Protective gear for players to guard against tackles or hits.
- Boots: Specialized shoes designed for soccer’s specific needs.
#4 Modern Development of Soccer
France’s soccer landscape has experienced significant evolution in recent years. Developments in coaching, sports science, and talent identification have resulted in a new golden generation of French players. The success of the national team and the French academies has become a model for other countries to emulate.
Technological advancements, such as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and goal-line technology, have also made their way into French soccer, aiming to improve the fairness and accuracy of decision-making during matches. Furthermore, women’s soccer is gaining serious traction, with the national team achieving success on the international stage and the women’s league attracting a growing following.
The French Ligue 1 has experienced a resurgence due to investment and increased visibility. The ascent of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) as a European powerhouse, fueled by Qatari investment, has brought global attention to French soccer, while the success of smaller clubs like AS Monaco and Olympique Lyonnais demonstrates a healthy competitive environment.
#5 Soccer and the Olympics
Soccer has been a prominent fixture in the Olympic Games since the early 20th century, with the men’s competition commencing in 1900 and the women’s tournament introduced in 1996. France has a rich history of participation in Olympic soccer, claiming gold in the men’s competition in 1984 and silver in 1900 and 1920.
The Olympics has played a vital role in the global recognition of soccer. The tournament showcases talent from all corners of the world and provides a platform for emerging stars to make their names. Furthermore, the Olympic Games have contributed to the growth and development of women’s soccer, as more countries invest in nurturing female talent.
#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements
- Michel Platini: Considered one of the greatest midfielders in soccer history, Platini captained France to victory in the 1984 UEFA European Championship and was a three-time Ballon d’Or winner.
- Zinedine Zidane: A legendary playmaker, Zidane played an instrumental role in France’s 1998 FIFA World Cup win, and later guided Real Madrid to three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles as a coach.
- Thierry Henry: As France’s all-time leading goal-scorer, Henry was influential in securing the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the 2000 UEFA European Championship, while also enjoying a glittering club career with Arsenal.
- Lilian Thuram: Boasting a record 142 appearances for France, the versatile defender was a vital component of the 1998 FIFA World Cup-winning team and a key figure in European club soccer.
- Éric Cantona: A charismatic and enigmatic forward, Cantona achieved legendary status at Manchester United and was a driving force behind their success in the 1990s.
#7 Where to watch Soccer
- Canal+ and beIN SPORTS: The leading broadcasters of Ligue 1, UEFA Champions League, and other domestic and international soccer events within France.
- Eurosport: Covers select soccer tournaments, including the Coupe de France and FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
- Live in France: Witness live soccer at iconic stadiums such as Parc des Princes (Paris), Stade de France (Saint-Denis), Stade Vélodrome (Marseille), and Groupama Stadium (Lyon).