NFL Crusade in Europe : A French Point of View

Clement FocketCorrespondent IApril 9, 2008

I’ve been reading your articles for months now, so I decided to join the community and become the first French writer on this website (I think).

You might be wondering why a French guy would like to write something about football. Do they even know that sport?

Yes, we do and we play it as well. This isn't enough to write an article, but you will admit that the current NFL's roadshow overseas, foregrounded by the NFL Europe and the past and future games in the UK, puts me in a good position to learn you some stuffs about football in Europe and in France, my beloved country.

First of all, you need to know that in Europe, "football" means "soccer," so we call it "American football."

It was introduced in France at the beginning of the 1980s by a sports teacher coming back from Denver.

At that time, the players usually played on rugby fields and nobody knew what the sport was.

Today, it's more recognized thanks to movies (primarily Any Given Sunday), but most of the population still ignores its rules and confounds it with rugby.

Moreover, the football players are often called steroid addicts and pussies for wearing helmets. Other people think the pads are made of metal like during the Middle Ages.

There is always a comparison with rugby in Europe because of the physical aspect of these sports. It's that true that the league nicknamed football, "Rugby à XI."

Our clubs/teams are nothing like yours. Indeed, the budget of our league (FFFA) is only 1,000,000€ and there are only 15,000 players for 194 clubs. Moreover, our players don't come from a draft because in Europe the sports system works thanks to federations (leagues) that join each team together. So, to belong to a team you just need to hold a license that you pay.

There is no selection and everybody, even the skinniest guy, can join a team. The French teams play the Football World Cup each year, which is led by Japan. After summarizing football in France, I'll introduce our guys.

You may have heard about Richard Tardits, former Patriot linebacker (1990-1992), and first French player in the NFL. He also played in the USA during the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

But you surely have heard about Phillipe Gardent, who played for the Centurions (NFL Europe) and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. He was the first ever non-American to win the award. This enabled him to join the NFL, or at least the practice squad of the Washington Redskins.

Unfortunately, they released him, but he signed a 2-year contract with the Carolina Panthers, but didn't pass the summer camp because he was too old.

Then, he decided to join the CFL, but finally ended up in Cardiff to play "Rubgy à XII" (I think you notice how rugby is close to football in the French mind).

Finally, there are no French players in the NFL, but we've got some good players in NFL Europe who might reach the league. Fortunately for us, Tony Parker saves us, but this is another topic...

To conclude, I really hope you had a good time reading my work because it took me time, so if you enjoyed it I'll reiterate. I'm all ears if my grammar is horrible; I did my best to not make many mistakes.


Some links:

Phillipe Gardent's official website:

FFFA's official website: