Some of the most popular French sports include football (soccer), tennis, cycling, handball, basketball and rugby.
Americans call it soccer, but around the world it is known as football, and to say that football is popular may be the understatement of the year! Governed by the French Football Federation, France's team placed second during the 2006 World Cup, and won the World Cup (while the host nation) in 1998. Unfortunately, along with their respectable second place showing, controversy is also a part of France's football reputation. During a 2006 World Cup match, player Zinedine Zidane head butted Italian player Marco Materazzi in the chest. While it's true the two players exchanged words, at the time, it was unclear as to what exactly was said.
Today, both players still dispute the exact words that were said, however, both do agree that Marco Materazzi made some crude comments in reference to Zinedine Zidane's sister. Mr. Zidane has since retired from the sport, but still remains very well-known in France.
Among the popular French sports are tennis, and every year, during the spring, the best clay-court specialists in the world converge on Roland Garros to test their skills. In fact, tennis is so popular in France that it ranks only second to football. The last Frenchman to win the French Open was Yannick Noah in 1983, while the last French woman, Mary Pierce, secured the title in 2000.
While it's true that France did not establish an official handball team until the early 1990's, since that time, they have gone on to make several successful showings in several tournaments. These accomplishments include winning the bronze medal during the 1993 Summer Olympics, reaching the finals of the 1993 World Championship and finishing third in the 2005 Summer Olympics. The sport of handball is popular in primary and secondary schools in France, and team handball itself continues to gain popularity in the country at large.
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