Raoul Diagne: The first player of African origin to play for France

Jul 27, 2020

Life Stories

Raoul Diagne


Raoul’s father, Blaise Diagne, was a Senegalese-French politician who was Mayor of Dakar and the first black African elected to France’s Chamber of Deputies. Later, he became the first African to hold a position in the French government. Raoul was born in 1910, in French Guiana.

International Star

Raoul Diagne was a powerfully-built defender who became a key player for Racing Club of Paris. He won medals for the League Championship in 1936 and three times for the Coupe de France in 1936, 1939 and 1940. Diagne played his first game for French national team on 15 February 1931, a 2-1 losse over Czechoslovakia. He also played for France in the 1938 World Cup.


After his playing career, Raoul Diagne had experience as a coach in French club football. In 1961 he became the first coach of the Senegal national team. He died in 2002, at a time when the ethnic and cultural diversity of France’s national team was celebrated, as well as debated. What is interesting is that when Diagne entered the international stage in France he did not encounter the same hostility as his contemporary French teammates of African origin.

Thinking points

Educators could look at the life story of Raoul Diagne and work with young people to consider these questions:

  1. What does Raoul Diagne’s story tell us about colonial migration?
  2. How are pioneers like Diagne remembered today?

Find out more

Read Philippe Auclair’s “What Makes a Nation” on The Blizzard. You can also explore the profile of Diagne produced by FIFA.


Raoul Diagne in November 1938 (Photo: Le Miroir des sports, 22 novembre 1938)

Raoul Diagne in November 1938 (Photo: Le Miroir des sports, 22 novembre 1938).

Life Story

The first player of African origin for France.


Article Tags:   diversity  |   ethnicity  |   migration

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