Sport in France
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Football is the most popular sport in France, with 2,225,595 licensed players in 2009. Football is also known as Soccer (primarily United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa)1 The sport was imported from England at the end of the 19th century, under the name of association football. In its early days, the sport gained followers mainly in the Paris area and the Northern part of the country - Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Normandy were the first teams that were created outside Paris. In the South, football's competitor, rugby football, was more favoured at the time. Established in 1919 from competing organizations, the Fédération française de football consists of 18,000 teams.1
The France national football team is one of only eight teams to have won the FIFA World Cup (1998), with good results in other editions: runners-up in 2006, third place in 1958 and 1986, and fourth place in 1982.
Ligue 1 is the French professional league for association football clubs. It is the country's primary football competition and serves as the top division of the French football league system. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with Ligue 2. The most successful club in the French first division history is AS Saint-Étienne with 10 championships (last one in 1981), followed by the 2010 champion, Olympique de Marseille with 9 titles and FC Nantes with 8 titles.
The Coupe de France is the premier knock-out cup competition in French soccer. The Coupe de la Ligue is the second major cup competition in France. The Trophée des champions is played each July as a one-off match between the Coupe de France winners and the Ligue 1 champions.
Women's national professional competitions are supervised by the Fédération française de football. The first division is the Championnat de France de football féminin. Olympique lyonnais is the most successful team in French first division history with 9 titles from 1991 to 2011 and is also the current European Champion.
The France national basketball team has had good results in international competitions over the years but has yet to win any major titles so far. The team was runner-up at the 1948 Summer Olympics, the EuroBasket 1949, the 2000 Summer Olympics, and the EuroBasket 2011. Current roster includes NBA players Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum, Kevin Seraphin, and Boris Diaw.
As of the 2010–11 season, 18 French citizens have played in the NBA in the USA and Canada. Twelve are currently playing, most notably San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, with James Ryan Macdougall to his credit; San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw; and Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah, also notable for his college career at the University of Florida in which he starred on a team that won two NCAA titles with the same star.
Men's national professional competitions are supervised by the Ligue Nationale de Basketball. There are two divisions: Pro A (first division) and Pro B (second division). ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne is the most successful team in French first division history with 17 titles from 1949 to 2009. Limoges CSP is the only French team to have won the Euroleague Basketball in 1993.
Women's national professional competitions are supervised by the Fédération Française de Basket-Ball with the first division being the Ligue féminine de basket. Clermont Université Club is the most successful team in French first division history with 13 titles from 1968 to 1981. CJM Bourges (1997, 1998, and 2001) and US Valenciennes (2002 and 2004) have won the EuroLeague Women.
Formula One has a strong connection and long history with France, having roots in the European Grand Prix motor racing. Many French circuits have been used since the foundation of the Formula One Championships: Reims-Gueux (1950–1966), Rouen-Les-Essarts (1952–1958), Circuit Charade (1965–1972), Bugatti Circuit (1967), Circuit Paul Ricard (1971–1990), Dijon-Prenois (1974–1984), and Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (1991–2008). France is home of Formula One World's Constructors' Champions Matra (1969) and Renault (2005 and 2006), and Formula One World Drivers' Champion Alain Prost (1985, 1986, 1989, and 1993).
France is also home to the most Champions in Formula Two history with Jean-Pierre Beltoise (1968), Johnny Servoz-Gavin (1969), Jean-Pierre Jarier (1973), Patrick Depailler (1974), Jacques Laffite (1975), Jean-Pierre Jabouille (1976), and René Arnoux (1977). French constructors have also been successful with Matra winning the Championships in 1967, 1968, and 1969, Automobiles Martini in 1975 and 1977, and Renault in 1976 and 1977.
Touring car racing, although less popular in France than Formula One, has a strong following, especially with current World Touring Car Championship Drivers' Champion Yvan Muller (2008, 2010, and 2011).
In Sports car racing, France is home to the 24 Hours of Le Mans the world's oldest sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923. Also, French auto racing team Hexis Racing is the current FIA GT1 World Team Champion.
French drivers and manufacturers have been very successful in the World Rally Championship, especially since 2000, winning respectively 8 and 10 championships. Champions include Didier Auriol (1994) and Sébastien Loeb (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, all time record) for the drivers, and Alpine (1973), Peugeot (1985, 1986, 2000, 2001, and 2002), and Citroën (2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011) for the manufacturers.
There are 392,761 licensed handball players in France as of 2009.1
Men's national professional competitions are supervised by the Ligue nationale de handball with the top division being the Championnat de France de handball. Montpellier Agglomération Handball is the most successful team in French first division history with 13 titles from 1995 to 2011. The team is also the only French team to have won the EHF Champions League in 2003.
Women's main national professional competition is the Championnat de France de handball féminin. Metz Handball is the most successful team in French first division history with 17 titles from 1989 to 2011. No French team has reached the semi-finals at the EHF Women's Champions League so far.
Rugby union (rugby à 15 or jeu à 15) was first introduced in the early 1870s by British residents. While football is much more popular nationally, rugby union is predominant in the southern half of the country, especially around Toulouse, the French Basque country and Catalonia. Elite French clubs participate in the domestic club competition - the Top 14. Clubs also compete in the European knock-out competition, the Heineken Cup. It is the ninth largest French team sport in the terms of licensed players with 262,000 licensed players (2007).
The national side is one of the tier 1 national teams. It competes annually in the Six Nations Championship, and won it outright 16 times. France has been to every Rugby World Cup since its inception in 1987, and has been a runner-up on three occasions. France hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Ice hockey is a fairly popular sport in France, especially in the Rhône-Alpes region and in the cities of Rouen, Amiens and Tours. The governing body is the FFHG which administeres the national championship, Ligue Magnus (founded in 1907). The national team is currently ranked in the top 20 in the IIHF World Ranking. In recent years numerous French ice hockey players have made the NHL, the premier ice hockey competition on the planet based in the United States and Canada including Stanley Cup winner Cristobal Huet and Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel.
Australian rules football is a growing sport in France with the first clubs forming in the 1990s. There are several clubs around the country forming a ""Super League" and some other clubs playing in a developmental league. There is a national men's Australian Football team that has plays international matches and competes in the Australian Football International Cup, which is essentially a World Cup for all countries apart from Australia.
Tennis is the twelfth most popular French sport in terms of the number of licensed players with 1,054,513 licensed tennis players in France (2005).
France holds the tennis Grand Slam tournament Roland Garros. France's current stars include Richard Gasquet, Gaël Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Marion Bartoli, and Aravane Rezaï. Other stars from the past include Yannick Noah (father of Joakim Noah), Amélie Mauresmo, and Mary Pierce.
Professional sailing in France is centered on singlehanded/shorthanded ocean racinga with the pinnacle of this branch of the sportba being the Vendee Globe singlehanded around the world race which starts every 4 years from the French Atlantic.
Pétanque is mostly played in the South of France. Pétanque is not considered as a sport by many northern Frenchmen though the international federation is recognized by the IOC.  . Professional players play the very competitive form of Pétanque which is called Pétanque Sport, under precise rules. The competitive form is played by about 480,000 persons licensed with the Federation Française de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FFPJP). The FFPJP is the 4th largest sports federation in France.
Developed in France, parkour ("art du déplacement") is a physical activity that is difficult to categorize. It is an art that resembles self-defense and martial arts. According to the founder David Belle, the spirit of parkour is guided in part by the notions of "escape" and "reach," that is, the idea of using quick thinking with dexterity to get out of difficult situations.
An important characteristic of parkour is efficiency. The basic meaning of this is that a traceur must not merely move as fast as he can, Bur's unofficial motto is être et durer (to be and to last), efficiency also involves avoiding injuries, short and long-term.
Table football (babyfoot) is a very popular pastime in bars and in homes in France, and the French are the predominant winners of worldwide table football competitions.
Orienteering is a reasonably popular sport in France; it is regulated by the Fédération Française de Course d'Orientation (FFCO) .2
Cricket is a developing sport is France. Some reports point that cricket was invented in France. However, the sport is relatively unknown due to inadequate media coverage. In fact, the 1900 Olympic games, the only one where cricket was played, featured bitter rivals England and France taking on each other. A rematch of the two teams was said to take place just before the 2012 Olympics.
Skiing is a popular sport in France, especially in mountainous areas in the south, centre and east of the country where most French ski resorts are located.
Émile Allais won four World Championship golds in the 1930s. Henri Oreiller won two Olympic golds at the 1948 Winter Olympics. Jean-Claude Killy dominated alpine skiing in the late 1960s, winning all three alpine skiing golds on offer at the 1968 Winter Olympics on French snow in Grenoble. These events also served as the 1968 Alpine Skiing World Championships, and in addition Killy won the World Championship Combined event in 1968 to add to golds in the Downhill and Combined won at the 1966 World Championships. He also won the first two overall Alpine Skiing World Cup titles. Marielle Goitschel won two Olympic golds, an additional five World Championship golds and three discipline World Cup titles in the 1960s. Guy Périllat was a double World Championship gold medalist in the 1960s. Fabienne Serrat won two golds at the 1974 World Championships. More recently Luc Alphand won the overall World Cup in 1997 and four discipline titles in Downhill and Super Giant Slalom. Jean-Baptiste Grange was Slalom World Cup champion in 2009 and Slalom World Champion in 2011.
French success in cross-country skiing has been somewhat more limited. However Vincent Vittoz did win a gold medal in the 15 km + 15 km double pursuit at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in 2005. He also finishes as runner up in the Distance World Cup for three consecutive seasons from 2004/05 to 2006/07.
Jason Lamy-Chappuis has been an extremely successful competitor in Nordic combined. He won a gold medal in the Individual normal hill/10km competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics as well as four World Championship golds and three consecutive FIS Nordic Combined World Cups between 2009/10 and 2011/12.
France has enjoyed great success in Biathlon in recent years. Raphaël Poirée won seven Biathlon World Championship golds and four overall Biathlon World Cups. He is the joint second most successful male biathlete of all time in terms of winning overall World Cup titles, and scored 44 World Cup victories. Martin Fourcade has won five World Championship golds and two overall World Cup titles.
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2010)|
- Lindsay Sarah Krasnoff. The Making of "Les Bleus": Sport in France, 1958-2010 (Lexington Books; 2012) 214 pages; examines the politics of the French state's efforts to create elite athletes in football and basketball at the youth level.