Scotland Wales Northern Ireland
BBC Homepage feedback | low graphics version
BBC Sport Online
You are in: Cricket  
Front Page 
The Ashes 
Rugby Union 
Rugby League 
Other Sports 
Sports Talk 
In Depth 
Photo Galleries 
TV & Radio 
BBC Pundits 
Question of Sport 
Funny Old Game 

Around The Uk

BBC News

BBC Weather

Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Say bonjour to cricket
Only 1,000 people play cricket regularly in France
A cricket match at Entrecasteux
The French cricket team is taking part in the ICC Trophy tournament, but how much interest is there in the game back at home? Allis Moss reports for BBC Sport Online.

There are few things more quintessentially English than cricket, but here is some shock news - the French have been playing the game longer than we have.

It was popular before the First World War when the French lost to England in the final of the 1900 Olympics - the only Games in which cricket was played.

But there's more.

If you leaf through Cassell's Dictionary of Word Histories, you'll find that 'cricket' comes from the Old French word 'criquet' - itself a corruption of an Old Dutch word for stick.

The first written mention of cricket was in a letter to a French king back in the fifteenth century.

In all likelihood, an early version of the game Britain carried to her colonies first crossed the Channel with English soldiers on their way home from fighting France in the Hundred Years War, centuries before.


But even if the sound of a ghostly bat and ball echoes in French fields, only a thousand people in the whole of the country play today.

Richie Benaud
Former Australian captain Richie Benaud is the patron of French cricket

A look at the French national team reveals their captain has the very English name of Simon Hewitt and their coach is the former Hampshire wicket-keeper, Bobby Parks.

But Hewitt - who has a French grandmother and has lived in France for 15 years - admits: "It's true that the French view cricket as a national stereotype.

"Cricket whites, that sort of thing, it's even confused with polo and croquet."

The game is played in three French regions, which have their own amateur leagues.

English ex-pats have kept the game alive in the South-East, in areas like Provence and on the Riveria, and in the South-West, mainly the Dordogne.

The sport has also been growing around Paris since the 1980s thanks to the arrival of Asian immigrant communities and the development of low-maintenance artificial pitches.

Government aid

There are now 40 clubs nationally, compared to the one that existed when France's rising new star, 15-year-old, Arun Ayyavooraju, was born.

French children holding the European Cricket Council flag
Pupils from the École Voltaire in Drancy on a visit to Lord's

"Cricket isn't going to take off with kids in rich areas where they're more likely to be playing computer games," admits Hewitt.

But interest is rising in poorer areas like the old industrial town of Picardy and overseas in Guadaloupe in the French West Indies, and New Caledonia where it is mostly played by women.

Hewitt is an outspoken ambassador for his game, not surprising as he is also Director of Cricket, the poor relation in a Federation that includes baseball and handball - France are the current handball world champions.

Cricket receives around 324,000 francs (£30,000) from the French government each year. Compare that to Germany or Belgium, where the politicians contribute nothing to help the game.

"What doesn't help is that cricket is not seen on TV and not part of the Olympics. The mountain we have to climb is the total lack of familiarity with the sport, " says Hewitt.

"To get the kids interested you have to get the parents on board - 70 yards is too far away to watch the action. For us to get cricket going in France in any meaningful way we need to forget about the outdoor game."

Provocative words perhaps. There are currently a dozen tournaments a year, only one of which is indoors.

But he's convinced cricket can win Gallic hearts and minds. As a game that fosters individual competitiveness as well as team spirit, it should appeal to the French.

It just remains to be seen whether they'll take advantage of it.

Search BBC Sport Online
Advanced search options
See also:

28 Jun 01 |  Cricket
Flags of inconvenience
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to top Cricket stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to other Cricket stories

^^ Back to top