Impossible n’est pas français and the theatre of dreams?

Impossible n’est pas français: Can Napoleon inspire the French to a World Cup win?

While Britain prepares to remember the bicentenary of Waterloo next year as a time when the country gave the French – and ‘Boney’ in particular –  ‘a damn good hiding’ (Leon Watson, the Mail Online, 23 June 2013,–Three-thousand-actors-recreate-famous-battle-198-years-Wellington-beat-Napoleon.html ), the French continue to have a very different relationship with Napoleon Bonaparte.

May 2014 marked the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s first exile to the Island of Elba after he had abdicated on 6th April 1814. It also marked the unveiling of the slogan to be painted on the French team bus for the World Cup in Brazil. The slogan was chosen by fans voting in a competition run by FIFA and sponsors Hyundai and the winning slogan was : Impossible n’est pas français, a reworking of a phrase Napoleon used in a letter to General Lemarois in July 1813. In the letter, Napoleon replied to the General (who had suggested the task of defending Magdeburg was not going to be possible) with the following :  ‘Ce n’est pas possible, m’écrivez-vous ; cela n’est pas français. Je suis donc mécontent de votre lettre’ (see Correspondance de Napoléon I (Paris : Plon, 1848), vol 25 p. 479, available on google books). Napoleon’s words became a saying : Impossible n’est pas français.But why was this voted the favourite slogan for the team bus by fans? (They rejected . “En route vers l’exploit” and “Un pour tous et tous pour la France” (see, 12  May 2014). It is unlikely to be nostalgia for the Emperor. It is probably a result of the team’s rather improbable win in the second leg of their play-off match against Ukraine in November 2013. 2-0 down after the first leg in Ukraine, they won 3-0 at home to book their place at the World Cup finals in Brazil. used the phrase in its match report as a header:

Impossible n’est pas Français

Les Bleus au Brésil

Le 19 novembre 2013 | Mise à jour le 19 novembre 2013
Axel Capron, de


Whatever the reason for picking a Napoleonic slogan, it seems to be working for now. Two games in to their World Cup campaign, France have already scored 8 goals and the last time they won their first two games at a finals (in 1998), they went on to win the tournament…


Cite this blog post
Katherine Astbury (2014, June 20). Impossible n’est pas français and the theatre of dreams? Napoleonic theatre. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from

One thought on “Impossible n’est pas français and the theatre of dreams?

  1. Harveycof

    Nous repartons en premiere ligne, ecrit le jeune soldat, en date du 24 mai, pres d’Arras ; nous avons encore une crete a enlever ; ce sera dur, mais « impossible n’est pas francais » , et alors c’est la trouee de Lille et la percee est faite.


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