A report on playing in France for foreigners

By Mr.Bordsenius at 2001-08-07

Ray Ager has given us a quick guide to playing in france:
If you want to play REAL pétanque, you really have to go to France, especially Provence, where pétanque isn’t a sport or a game – it’s practically the religion!

With the good weather, there are games every day in the more popular resorts, such as Marseille, La Ciotat – where you can play on the very terrain where the game was invented – Cassis, Bandol, St Tropez – where you might see a few stars playing – Nice, etc.

While there are often social games in praticaly any area, if you want to play with and against the better players and perhaps enter a competition, you’ll need to find a club. Surprisingly, local tourists offices don’t always have details – pétanque in France is very much something for the locals, rather than a tourist attraction – and it’s best to contact the French Federation (la Fédération Française de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal FFPJP www.ffpjp.fr) for details of clubs in the area you wish to visit, which may be off the beaten track.

Of course, speaking French is a great help, remember you’ll be meeting the “real” French – not a waiter in a restaurant – who probably don’t speak much English. You need to be outgoing and introduce yourself – the custom is usually to say “Bonjour” and shake hands with everybody who’s waiting to play. If you don’t do this, you’ll probably be seen as “stand-offish” and if you don’t say hello to them, they probably won’t say hello to you. Most pétanque players are usually quite friendly, remember, it’s a very social activity, and providing you’re a competent player, will welcome you to join them for a game.

“Tu tires ou tu pointes?” – « Do you shoot or point ? », is the question you’re bound to be asked. Unless you’re a VERY good shooter, it’s always best to say you’ll point and wait to be asked to shoot. Always be guided by the locals – they’ll know their own terrain much better than you, but don’t be afraid to assert yourself. Challenge a point if you think you’re on and demand a measure. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a shot the teams suggests, offer your own suggestion.

It’s best to have an International Licence – essential if you want to enter any competitions. This shows you’re a serious player who also has insurance, something that some clubs will want you to have before they let you play on a private terrain. However, remember that they probably won’t have seen an International Licence before, or even be aware that such things exists. Be prepared to explain and, if you’re staying for any length of time, it’s politic to offer to pay to join the club – they often have a Summer rate of typically 60F which will allow you to play in their competitions.

Follow these simple rules and you should have a great time. The standard of play is usually pretty good. If you go to some of the larger clubs, such as Nice, for example, there will probably be former, if not current, Regional even National champions that you might get to play against.

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