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Everything about Football in France (Soccer)

Everything about Football in France (Soccer)

I will use in the article the word soccer and football. The reason is simply that most of my readers are from the USA. French people always loved Football and this is the reason why they created the institutions that manage Football in the world.

The FIFA (Federation International de Football Association) in Paris in 1904. Its headquarters are now in Switzerland in Zurich. The Fédération Française Football known as FFF is the federation that manages football in France. 

Organization of Soccer in France 

French football in France is not organized in a closed league like it can be for some professional sports in the USA. From now on, every year there are two teams that get access to the league higher or lower. The highest league is the Ligue 1 composed of the 20 best French soccer teams.

After comes the Ligue 2 with 20 teams, then National, National 2, and National 3. The French Football League is ranked by the UEFA (Union of European Football Association) at the 5th position in Europe. Only one French football club managed to win the most prestigious European competition named the Champions League. It was the Soccer team of Marseille named OM (Olympique de Marseille). 

One more important information, there are no playoffs at the end of the season. The team finishing in the first position at the end of the 38 games, wins the league title.

Besides Ligue 1, there were two national cups until 2020. The French Cup is named, in French, La Coupe de France where professional and amateur French teams take part. The other one is La Coupe de la Ligue where only professional football teams take part in the competition. There will be only the Coupe de France from now on since it is the most prestigious cup that was created in 1917. 

Let’s make focus on Ligue 1. I will give you the most prestigious soccer teams in France. Important information, Paris was bought by Qatar in 2012 and now almost no teams can compete against them since their budget is huge. They bought prestigious players like the Brazilian star Neymar at 222 million euros or the French star Kylian Mbappé at 145 million euros!

Kylian Mbappé
Антон Зайцев, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

The 10 French teams with the most national title leagues in 2022:

1 – AS Saint-Etienne: 10 titles

2 – Paris Saint Germain: 10 titles (last winner of season 2022)

3 – Olympique de Marseille: 9 titles

4 – FC Nantes: 8 titles

5 – AS Monaco: 8 titles

6 – Olympique Lyonnais: 7 titles

7 – Girondins de Bordeaux: 6 titles

8 – Stade de Reims: 6 titles

9 – OGC Nice: 4 titles

10 – Lille OSC: 4 titles 

 The Biggest rivalries / Derby in the French football

Most rivalries in France are derby, two cities that are close by. The biggest derby in France is between Saint-Etienne and Lyon. I recommend you to go to one of these games, the atmosphere is incredible, especially in the football stadium of Saint-Etienne at Geoffroy-Guichard.

On one side there is the first team (and only) that reached the ten national titles, an old industrial town that had to face the end of the industrial era with unemployment and poverty. On the other hand, there is Lyon an old and historic city, the food capital of France. The Club managed to win the highest number of times in a row in the French league.. seven times!

List of football derbies in France: 

  • AS Saint-Etienne vs. Olympique Lyonnais
  • Lille OSC vs. RC Lens
  • FC Nantes vs. Stade Rennais
  • FC Nancy vs. FC Metz 
  • Olympique de Marseille vs. AS Monaco

A special game: Paris Saint Germain vs. Olympique de Marseille

There is a special game between the North represented by Paris and the South represented by Marseille. There is this same rivalry in the French rap scene. The rivalry was created by the French channel Canal Plus which was broadcasting the Ligue 1 in the 80s in order to increase the number of subscribers.

For many years the game was named Le Classico, a thing completely silly since it is the name of the games between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in Spain. Now, The French media started to call the game Le Classique (The Classic). 

The French football fans

Do not expect to have the same experience of going to a French football game as going to the stadium in the USA or even the UK. First thing, the fans of different teams are most of the time not allowed to be together in the stadium. France and many other European countries were victims of the hooligan movement where people were violent and used football for political reasons or just as a reason to fight.

The USA is great at organizing shows in the stadium with lights and music from speakers. In France, the sound is coming from the fans. There is a movement called Ultra, there are fans that are deeply passionate about their club by coming to every game, creating huge tifos (huge flags), and singing all along the game to support their team. I would say my top three best fans in France are the ones from Strasbourg, Saint-Etienne, and Marseille. I could add the fans of Nantes and Lens. 

The National French Football Team

The French teams for the last years got really good results. One of the reasons is that football/soccer is the most popular sport in France. By the way, I wrote an article about the most popular sports in France, if you are curious about it.

The French football team won twice the World Cup in 1998 and in 2018. They lost two finals in 2006 against Italy by penalties, not really a defeat for me. Sadly, the French team went a second time in a row to the World Cup final in 2022 and lost by penalties against Argentina after over time (same as in 2006).

The French soccer team also won twice the European Cup in 1984 and 2000. The victory of 2000 was so good, France tied the game at the last minute before winning during the overtime against.. Italy. Touché

Read also: 2024 Paris Summer Olympics: Locations and Dates

Ballon d’Or Award

This is the most prestigious individual award that can receive by a football player. This award was created in 1956 by the French magazine France Football. For the moment only five French players received it

1 – Raymond Copa in 1958

2 – Michel Platini in 1983 – 1984 – 1985 

3 – Jean-Pierre Papin in 1991

4 – Zinédine Zidane in 1998

5 – Karim Benzema in 2022

I hope that you learn about French soccer in France thanks to this article. What is the best French football team for you in France? Let me know in the comment section! I wrote about one French slang related to football in France.

Have you heard of the word Footix? No? Do you need to read my blog post about What is Being a Footix in France?


Wednesday 17th of June 2020

Cool article and nice recommendation about Lyon / St Étienne derby, always great games and vibes.


Thursday 18th of June 2020

Thanks Rémi! Yes, this football derby is iconic in France ⚽