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Which are the Most Popular Sports in France?

The world of sports is a fascinating arena where nations showcase their passion and skill. In France, the love for sports is no exception. From the thrill of soccer to the elegance of tennis and the risk of sailing, French people always celebrate their favorite sports. But which ones stand out as the most popular? Will it be the high-energy excitement of soccer or the precision of cycling? Discover the top sports that capture the hearts of the French and explore the reasons behind their popularity.

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List of Top 10 Most Popular Sports in France

  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Rugby
  • Basketball
  • Handball
  • Athletics
  • Judo
  • Pétanque
  • Swimming
  • Sailing

1- Soccer

Soccer, or football as it’s known in France, is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the country. The French national team, affectionately called “Les Bleus” (The Blues), has a long history dating back to its formation in 1904. Since then, they have earned their place as a top international football team, winning two FIFA World Cup titles and two UEFA European Championships.

The first World Cup triumph for France came in 1998 when they hosted the tournament and defeated Brazil 3-0 in the final. Two decades later, in 2018, the French team once again lifted the trophy, this time defeating Croatia 4-2 in the final. Apart from World Cup successes, France has also won the European Championship twice, in 1984 and 2000. 

Among the all-time greats who have donned the French jersey, five players stand out as true legends of the game. First and foremost is Zinedine Zidane, who led France to glory in the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship. 

Another iconic figure is Michel Platini, who captained France to their first-ever European Championship triumph in 1984. Thierry Henry, who scored a record 51 goals for the national team, is also widely regarded as one of the best French players of all time.

Alongside these legends, the current generation of French superstars, such as Kylian Mbappé, Karim Benzema, and Antoine Griezmann, have continued to uphold the nation’s proud footballing tradition. Mbappé, in particular, has emerged as a global superstar, winning the 2018 World Cup at the age of 19 and securing his place as one of the most exciting young talents in football.

The passion and pride that the French people have for their national team is truly unmatched. Soccer is the heartbeat of France, a sport that has brought the nation together in triumph and celebration.

2- Tennis

Tennis holds a special place in the hearts of the French people. As one of the most popular sports in the country, France has a history of producing world-class tennis players and hosting prestigious tournaments.

The French Open, also known as Roland-Garros, is the crown jewel of French tennis. Established in 1891 and becoming a Grand Slam event in 1925, the French Open has seen French players dominate the men’s singles competition over the years. French players have won 38 French Open men’s singles titles, with the most recent champion being Carlos Alcaraz in 2024. 

Among the all-time great French tennis players, a few stand out as true icons of the sport. Yannick Noah, the last Frenchman to win the French Open in 1983, Gael Monfils, known for his shot-making and thrilling performances, have been fan favorites for years. 

Richard Gasquet’s elegant one-handed backhand has earned him admiration, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s explosive power and entertaining style have made him a crowd-pleaser. Gilles Simon, a master of strategy and tactical play, has consistently been a top-ranked player on the ATP Tour.

These French tennis legends have not only brought glory to their country but have also played a significant role in popularizing the sport among the French people. Their success has promoted a deep appreciation for tennis in France and inspired the next generation of players to follow their legacy.

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3- Rugby

Rugby is the third most popular sport in France. The sport was introduced to France in 1872 by English merchants and students, and the first national team was formed in 1893. France has a strong tradition in rugby, competing in the annual Six Nations Championship and the Rugby World Cup.

France has a notable record in the Six Nations Championship, having won the tournament on 26 occasions. They have also achieved the Grand Slam 10 times. The national team has a long history of success, with various achievements including winning the gold medal at the 1900 Summer Olympics and reaching the Rugby World Cup final three times.

Among the all-time great French rugby players, five stand out as the best ones. Serge Blanco, known for his speed and agility, is France’s record try scorer with 38 tries. He played 93 times for France and captained the team at the 1991 World Cup.

Fabien Pelous, a versatile player who played as a lock or flanker, earned 118 caps for France and was part of the team that won the 2002 World Rugby Team of the Year award. Philippe Sella, known for his skill and pace, played 111 times for France and was a key player in the team that won the 1987 Five Nations Championship.

Thierry Dusautoir, a back-row player who captained France to a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2010 and led the team to a historic victory over New Zealand in 2009. At the bottom of the list comes Yannick Jauzion, who played 73 times for France and was a key player in the team that won the 2004 Six Nations Championship.

The impact these players have had on French rugby is irreversible, and their accomplishments serve as an inspiration to upcoming players.

4- Basketball

Basketball is the fourth most popular sport in France. The country has a rich history of producing world-class basketball talent and achieving milestones on the international stage.

The French men’s national team has won the EuroBasket championship on two occasions, in 2013 and 2015. They have also claimed the FIBA World Cup bronze medal in 2014 and the silver medal in 2019, showing their ability to compete at the highest level. 

Among the all-time great French basketball players, several names stand out. Tony Parker, a four-time NBA champion, is regarded as the greatest French player of all time. His exceptional ball-handling skills, court vision, and clutch performances have made him a huge figure in the sport. Rudy Gobert, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is another French superstar.

Other notable French basketball legends include Joakim Noah, known for his energy and defensive prowess, and Boris Diaw, a versatile player whose high basketball IQ and passing ability made him a valuable asset on the court. Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum have also left a legacy.

The rise of French basketball can be attributed to the country’s strong grassroots development programs and the inspiration provided by these iconic players. The future of basketball in France is bright, with talented young players like Victor Wembanyama ready to inspire the French people. 

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5- Handball

Handball is the fifth most popular sport in France. The French national team has been a dominant force, with 6 titles. These victories have inspired generations of players to take up the sport.

Among the all-time great French handball players is Nikola Karabatic who is considered as one of the best players in the world. Karabatic has won numerous titles with the national team and his club. Other notable French handball legends include Daniel Narcisse, Thierry Omeyer, Didier Dinart, and Jérôme Fernandez who brought glory to their country.

Handball’s popularity in France extends beyond the national team’s success. The Lidl Starligue, the country’s top professional league, attracts large crowds and features intense rivalries between the top clubs. The sport is also famous at school and college level.  

6- Athletics

Athletics is the sixth most popular sport in France. The country has a long history of producing world-class athletes who have dominated on the global stage. The French national team has been a consistent performer at the Olympic Games, with its athletes bringing home an impressive haul of medals. France currently ranks among the top nations in the world for total Olympic medals won in athletics.

Some of the all-time greatest French athletes in the sport include Marie-José Pérec,

an Olympic gold medalist and one of the greatest French athletes of all time. She won gold in the 400m at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Renaud Lavillenie, the pole vault specialist, is a multiple world record holder and Olympic champion. He won gold at the 2012 London Olympics and has dominated the event for over a decade.

Christophe Lemaitre, a sprinting sensation, is the first European to have broken the 10-second barrier in the 100m. He has won numerous medals. Muriel Hurtis-Houairi,

former world champion in the 4x400m relay, was also a dominant force in women’s sprinting during her prime. She won gold at the 2003 World Championships and the 2004 Olympics.

These are just a few of the many exceptional French athletes who have put the country on the map in the world of athletics. 

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7- Judo

Judo, a martial art, is the seventh most popular sport in France. French players have consistently brought home gold, silver, and bronze medals. Teddy Riner, a huge figure in the heavyweight division, has won an astounding 11 world championship titles and three Olympic gold medals.

Yamashita Yasuhiro, a Japanese-born French citizen, is another figure who won Olympic gold for France in 1984 and 1988. The list also includes David Douillet, a four-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, as well as Djamel Bouras and Frédérique Jossinet, both of whom have won Olympic medals for France.

The success of these French judoka has not only brought immense pride to the nation. Judo’s popularity in France continues to grow and the sport’s cultural significance, combined with the achievements of its legendary practitioners, make judo one of the most celebrated sports.

8- Pétanque

Pétanque is the eighth most popular sport in France. This classic game of boules, originating in the early 20th century in the southern region of Provence, has captivated the hearts of the French people.

France’s dominance in the world of Pétanque is unmatched, with the country’s players consistently showing their mastery of the sport in national and international tournaments. 

In Pétanque, five French players are considered the true legends of the game. Raymond Bes, a pioneer of the sport, is regarded as one of the most influential figures in Pétanque’s history. 

Phillipe Suchaud, a multiple-time World Champion, is renowned for his precision and consistency, while Philippe Quintais, a true master of the sport, has impressed audiences with his performances. The list is rounded out by the dynamic duo of Henri Lacroix and Michel Loy, whose teamwork has led them to numerous victories.

9- Swimming

France has consistently produced world-class swimmers who have brought home numerous medals and accolades from major international competitions. Swimming is the ninth most popular sport in France. 

The French swimmers have secured multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals over the years. One of the most notable achievements was the country’s success at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the French swimmers claimed a total of 10 medals, including 4 golds.

In the French swimming landscape, several names stand out. Laure Manaudou, a former world record holder and Olympic champion, is famous as one of the country’s swimming legends. She won a gold medal in the 400m freestyle at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Another French swimming great is Alain Bernard, who held the world record in the 100m freestyle and won gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His swimming style made him a fan favorite both at home and abroad.

Yannick Agnel, a two-time Olympic champion, is also among the most celebrated French swimmers. Florent Manaudou, the brother of Laure Manaudou, is another French swimming sensation. He won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

10- Sailing

Sailing is also one of the most popular sports in France. One of the most significant accomplishments of French sailing is the Vendée Globe, a grueling solo, non-stop, around-the-world yacht race that takes place every four years. 

The race, which is often referred to as the “Everest of the Seas,” has seen numerous French sailors emerge victorious, including Michel Desjoyeaux, who won the race in 2001 and 2009, and François Gabart, who set a new record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2017.

French sailors have also excelled in other prestigious sailing events, such as the America’s Cup, the oldest trophy in international sport. The French team, Alinghi, won the America’s Cup in 2003 and 2007.

Eric Tabarly, Loïck Peyron, Michel Desjoyeaux, and François Gabart are considered top French sailors. 

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France’s sporting culture reflects the nation’s passion for various athletic pursuits. Soccer reigns supreme as the most popular sport. Tennis and rugby also enjoy widespread popularity. Basketball and handball are key team sports. Athletics and judo highlight individual prowess, while traditional games like pétanque maintain cultural significance. Swimming and sailing appeal to those drawn to water sports. This combination of popular sports highlights France’s deep-rooted enthusiasm for athletic excellence.


What is the National Game of France?

Football is the national game of France.

What Sport Originated in France?

Pétanque, cycling, automobile racing, and fencing originated in France.

Is France a Sporty Country?

Yes, almost in every other sport, France has contributed and won various titles.

What is the Oldest Sport in France?

Wrestling and sprinting are the two oldest sports in France.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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