Student Research Projects

Nationalism to Globalization in Modern Day Sports in France: Three Iconic Sports Figures Yannick Noah, Zinedine Zidane and Tony Parker

Student Breanna Muir, ‘13
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Foreign Languages and Literature
Course FRE 443: French Senior Seminar


Despite the large amount of research on sports in France, little is known about how sports reflect national views on topics such as politics, national pride, and history. Both the success of France’s athletes and key contributions to the world of sports (i.e. hosts of several summer and winter Olympic Games, a 1998 World Cup, the French Open and Tour de France) along with being the inventors of the modern day Olympic philosophy and Fédération Internationale de Football Association, French sports are world-renowned. France is known for its football (soccer), its tennis (the French Open) and its cycling (Tour de France). From the 1970s until today, three iconic figures have sculpted the history and culture of sport. The first is professional tennis star and singer, Yannick “Petit Frere” Noah, who is the last Frenchman to win the French Open at the Stade Roland Garros (1983 against Mats Wilander). The second figure is France’s national soccer team (Les Blues) former athlete, Zinedine “Zizou” Zidane, who scored two of the three goals that sealed France’s victory over Brazil in the 1998 World Cup. The third figure is San Antonio’s Spurs starting point guard, Tony “The French Prince” Parker, who won three championship rings during his 12-year career in the National Basketball Association. By examining Noah’s, Zidane’s, and Parker’s careers, this study argues that French sports and the mediatization of sports serve as tools of both nationalism and globalization. Specifically, mediatization and celebration of these star athletes serve to cover up certain problems, such as persistent racism and the hardships that minorities continue to face. At the same time, however, these athletes help to create strong bonds between France and the rest of the world, thus functioning as integrating forces for the French nation within the context of globalization.