When France won the World Cup in 1998, it was meant to be the start of a golden age for the team and the country; and the success of the multi-racial squad did, briefly, unite the country. But the 20 years between that victory and the 2018 triumph showed that France needed more than football to bring it together…
British journalist and broadcaster Matthew Spiro's "Sacré Bleu: Zidane to Mbappé, a football journey" takes us inside the last 30 years of French football and French society, speaking to eye witnesses including Arsene Wenger, Gerard Houllier and Marcek Desailly. It's a riveting read for anyone with any interest in football or France.
Why does France - a country with a patchy football tradition until the 1980s - now export more professional footballers than any other nation? (There are currently more than 100 playing in Europe's big four leagues)? Why do so many of them come from the same underprivileged areas - the suburbs and satellite towns of Paris? Do French football's multi-racial successes show the way forward for French society in general - or merely highlight its ongoing difficulties in other areas?
Matthew has covered Les Bleus at major tournaments for the past two decades. He moved to Paris in 2002, and his work has appeared on/in the BBC, UEFA.com, the Irish Times, The Times, the Daily Telegraph, and Canal+.