Identity and the French National Team

Coauthored by Jeremy Roth and David Talpalar


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This summer’s 2016 UEFA European Cup (Euro Cup) will take place in various cities across France, including Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Denis, Saint-Étienne, and Toulouse. The Euro Cup takes place every four years in a rotational cycle selected by the UEFA executive body and was chosen to be held in France in 2016 for a tournament record third time. The fact that France is holding the tournament for the third time must illustrate the deep connection that France has to the tournament and to the game of football itself. Yet, this is not to say that all of France’s football history has been full of positive memories and exempt from scandals. Indeed, France has been no stranger to controversy, and its national team has not been  spared from the country’s unfortunate trait. Specifically, the France national team has repeatedly faced issues regarding question whether its players are really “French.”

The French team, as hosts, are certainly not the favorites for this summer’s tournament and aren’t attracting the majority of the media’s attention. Yet, it is imperative that the French national team receives a thorough examination. Pierre Brochand, a former French diplomat, once said that “football is a sort of ‘prism’, which provides a useful tool with which to examine questions such as national identity“ (Marks 41). Specifically, as the host nation, it would make the most sense to investigate what the French national team’s connection is to the nation, identity, and nationality. The host nation for the Euro Cup is supposed to be a nation that will embrace all of the teams, players, and fans participating in the tournament.  Yet, France, and its national team, has often been connected to issues regarding equality and inclusivity, which are key components of a creating a successful and respectful UEFA Euro Cup. Unfortunately for France, its history with racism, immigration, and discrimination has not been particularly pleasant. This then raises further questions about this summer’s projected French national team roster and for future tournaments to come as there are often questions regarding which nation ‘correctly’ represents France on the pitch. For France, this summer’s games present not only an opportunity for the players on the pitch to perform well in the tournament but also an opportunity for the fans and the nation itself to show new levels of support off of the field. In this section of the European Cup Tournament Guide, we intend to lay out some of France’s troubled recent past with discrimination and racism against any multiethnic French players through a historical and narrative lens, while also projecting the starting 11 for France this summer, which we project to have a majority of players with non-French heritage.


The Recent History of French Football: A Turbulent Ride On and Off the Pitch 


Projected French Starting XI at Euro 2016


Works Cited Page


How to cite this article: “Identity and the French National Team” Written by Jeremy Roth and David Talpalar (2016), European Cup 2016 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on date)).