The Making of Les Bleus: Sport in France, 1958-2010
The Making of Les Bleus traces the Fifth Republic’s quest to create elite athletes in two global team sports, football and basketball, primarily at the youth level. While the objective of this mission was to improve performances at international competitions, such programs were quickly seized upon to help ease domestic issues and tensions.
"Barnstorming Frenchmen: The impact of Paris Université Club's U.S. tours and the individual in sports diplomacy"
This intimate look inside the first two trips to the United States by a French basketball team (Paris Université Club 1956, 1962) provides a window-in to early unofficial sports exchanges between the two countries. Organized by U.S. teammate Martin Feinberg, the trips embodied how basketball enabled the young French players to learn first-hand about U.S. culture and society, including Jim Crow and the two sister republics' differing attitudes towards race. The PUC tours were sterling examples of the merits of sports exchanges as elements of diplomacy, even though they were not government-sponsored or even public-private partnerships.
When France won the World Cup in 1998, the team’s multiethnic composition was feted as a symbol of the nation’s new, postcolonial image. Alas, the feel-good story did not last. Wins became scarce, scandals plagued the team and football was politicized as the public deplored the ‘Playstation junkies’ too individualistic to serve the nation. The infusion of racially charged rhetoric into the discourse of Les Bleus led many to believe that French football is rife with racism and that the national team is not well received by the public. On the contrary, the public is generally supportive of Les Bleus. The negative discourse is an anti-football backlash against the sport’s business climate, one fuelled by traditional disdain for football, and shaded by domestic anxieties. This is the ‘second sports crisis’, an identity crisis less about racial identity and more about the sociocultural norms of being French.
"Resurrecting the Nation: The Evolution of French Sports Policy from De Gaulle to Mitterrand" examines the evolution of youth sports policies in France and media's role spurring on the development of elite athletes.