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Three documentaries to understand French Football

The bright and dark side of the new World Champions

Three documentaries to understand French Football The bright and dark side of the new World Champions

Football is often used as a metaphor for society, sometimes with good reason.
In France, this parallel makes more sense than in other countries: the National football team is a microcosm of the French society, which with the same environment contains all the souls of the country: from banlieue boys (nephews of post-colonial immigration) to French white middle class. For this reason, in the last 25 years, the events surrounding the National team have had a different political and social weight than in Italy for example. The biggest topic is obviously the French identity and multiculturalism, as well as the integration of the marginalized communities, that in the football team are represented and have a strong voice.
At the same time as France woke up to the World Champion on Monday, dominating a World Championship in the field thanks to the technical and physical diversity of its players: Pogba would not dribble in the same way if he had not played on the concrete fields of Lagny-Sur-Marne, Pavard's tactical intelligence was also influenced by the high school he attended in Lille.
In order to understand the rise and the history of the most interesting and complex national team in Europe we can trust another very French passion: cinema. Here are three documentaries analyzing French football from three very different perspectives that help to understand both how France has won the 2018 World Cup, and how to avoid stupid and racist arguments (as some Italian journalists do) on French multiculturalism. 

 

Les Bleus - Une autre histoire de France, 1996-2016 (2016)

Where to watch it: Netflix
Lenght: 1h 43m

In the last two decades, French football has established a controversial relationship with politics. This documentary links the major football games and events - from the 1998 World Cup, to Zinedine Zidane's header and the disastrous 2010 World Cup - with the public and political eras in France, like the Banlieue's riot or the rise of the Front National in 2002. 
The main topic is the collective identity of a multicultural society like France, starting from the slogan black-blanc-beur coined in 1998, to sum up, the three souls of the National, exploited according to the political and football season. Latent racism towards the Islamic community, the marginalization at the peripheries and the power of white France are all problems that exist in French society and are mirrored in events around the National.

 

Ballon Sur Bitume - Netflix (2016)

Where to watch it: Netflix
Lenght: 51m

There is an impressive thing to note about French Football: a majority of the talents were born among the suburban area of Paris. Pogba, Mbappè, Matuidi, Mendy and other talented players like Riyadh Mahrez or Wissam Ben Yedder, were raised playing football in the Banlieue, where the pitches are in concrete and the street attitude rules football. When Ballon Sur Bitume was first published on YouTube we interviewed Jesse Adang (one of the directors) and traced all the influences from music to architecture that is linked to the French street football. The doc is not just about street culture, it analyzes also the technical aspect: it's impressive to see how playing on the streets has influenced the Pogba's and Mbappè's moves on the World Cup pitches.
Last week a little spin-off of this documentary was published, dedicated to another french starlet: Ousmane Dembelè.

 

Les Bleus 2018, au coeur de l'épopée Russe (2018)

Where to watch it: YouTube
Lenght: 2h 

The third documentary was broadcast the day before yesterday on TF1, a satellite channel of French TV, recording a share of 6.8 million viewers. Following the trend of the latest football documentaries (such as the one on Juventus), Les Blues 2018 goes behind the scenes of the path to becoming the champions of the world, before and during the 2018 World Cup. Produced by the French Football Federation it is the perfect documentary for those who have the curiosity to enter into a World Cup locker room, there are the motivational speeches of Deschamps and Pogba before and during the final with Croatia and many personal interviews with the players.