Explore the South of France’s Sporting Opportunities
Renowned for its breathtaking architecture, Southern France is one of the globe’s most popular destinations among tourists. The reason for this revolves around its undeniable depth of culture. As well as taking in the picturesque scenery while enjoying local wine and delicious cuisine, Southern France doesn’t shy away from providing its visitors with an array of different sporting opportunities, too.
While French Iceberg reports that football is the country’s favourite sport, the South of France is known for its rugby union background. Additionally, the region is the home to various stages of the Tour de France, which is arguably the most famous event on the cycling calendar. So, let’s take a detailed look at the sports-orientated variety on offer within Southern France.
The Region Plays a Significant Role in Ligue 1 Participation
There can be no doubt that France possesses one of Europe’s top footballing leagues in Ligue 1. The division, which dates back to 1932, holds 20 teams including several from Southern France. Although the division is now typically dominated by Paris Saint-Germain, clubs from the south have been central in growing the appeal of domestic football throughout the country.
In showcasing the attraction of the pitch-based sport in Southern France, the Stade Velodrome is the largest club stadium in the entire country. Second, only in its capacity to the Stade de France, Marseille’s home ground, constructed in the 1930a for the 1938 FIFA World Cup, seats around 67,000 people. Since coming to fruition, the ground has provided the foundations for Les Phoceens to write their names into the history books. Following PSG’s defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League final, Marseille remains the only French side to have ever won the sought-after European Cup.
As well as Marseille, Monaco, Montpellier, and Nice are also located in the South of France. Between them, the three teams have won the top flight of French football on 13 occasions, with Les Monegasques being crowned league champions eight times in their history.
Catch the Tour de France
Alongside football, Southern France has long been a staple of the Tour de France route. According to the event’s official website, the Tour returned to the region for the race’s starting point for the seventh time in its 117-year history in 2020. Moreover, for Nice, the staging of the event’s opening phase was the first time that the city had done so since 1906.
While it is historic for Southern France to kick-start one of the sport’s most-anticipated events, the location has long hosted the closing periods of the endurance race. Back in 2016, the Tour de France ended with the participants climbing Mont Ventoux, which Climb By Bike translates to “windy mountain”.
Because of its global popularity, cycling has established itself as a leading sport in France that has been at the forefront of the country’s online betting industry. With online sports betting in France, the available bookmakers offer odds on an array of sports, including cycling. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world bet on this time-honoured sport. This includes famed races such as the 2020 Tour de Flanders and 2021 Tour de France.
An Unrivalled Admiration for Rugby Union
As touched upon above, although football leads the way regarding sports popularity in France, the country’s southern region has a preference for rugby union. Unlike other sports, there’s a deep-rooted belief within the South of France that rugby union is more than just another game. As per Complete France, it has a religious feeling that brings together diverse cultures and classes.
To highlight the unifying power that rugby union has on those from Southern France, The Guardian reported that a priest dedicated his chapel to the sport back in 2003. Although lighthearted, this action epitomizes the important role that rugby plays in the day-to-day lives of the region’s people.
Despite its long relationship with the sport, Southern France is currently the home to one of the Top 14’s newest teams. The professional rugby union tournament began in the 1890s and recently welcomed Montpellier Herault Rugby to the top tier. Since its formation in 1986, Les Cistes have competed in the European Rugby Champions Cup while also achieving a 9th-place finish in the 2019-20 season.
There’s Plenty to Enjoy
The beauty of the South of France, from a sporting perspective, is that there are so many opportunities for visitors to explore. From top-flight football and rugby to the peak of the cycling calendar, high-level sports are a staple throughout Southern France. Even if you’re not a sports fan, immersing yourself in the region’s local culture may open your eyes to a new hobby that could remain with you for a lifetime.