This was the last image of Zizou from the World Cup - walking past the Cup, with tears in his eyes. it was heart wrenching and maddening. This wasn't how it should have ended. This shouldn't have been part of the script. During the match such a short snapshot of Zizous sudden violence was shown that it made no sense what so ever. The whole thing was so sudden and idiotic and unnecessary. I think its beside the point to argue that France would have won with him there till the end....perhaps, but they probably wouldn't have even been in Berlin if not for Zizou.
Aime Jacquet, who led France to World Cup glory in '98 summed up exactly how i felt watching Zidane walk into the dressing room..."Why did Zizou do it? Who is Materazzi to deserve a reaction like that from Zidane? What came over him? For God's sake, you just can't finish your career in that way! Zizou didn't deserve that. That sending off was like a collapse for me.... I feel empty."
Why, was, and still is, the question.
No one can condone what he did...it was completely out of order and deserved a red card and sending off. And that stands, whatever the latest news update on what exactly Materazzi said. Nipple tweak or not, abuses and slurs aside, ZZ should just not have reacted.
But heres the thing, that is so much easier to say than to actually do. Two days before the final, over dinner some of us were discussing the match and players when someone passed a completely unnecessary, deregatory comment about Zidanes ethnicity and religion. It was highly frutrating and beside the point and only caused me to burst into a complete tirade and verbal lashing that was so extreme that there was stunned silence till i got up and walked off. And this a reaction from someone who simply admires his game.
The fact is, Zidanes greatness aside, the background of how the son of Muslim Algerian immigrants made it big has added to his legend. It has also brought with an immense amount of racism for him to deal with. Everyone knows of Le Pen and of the France - Algeria match. Zidane is known to be extremely proud of his Kabyle origins, he is known for his utter devotion to family. There are some thing that are perhaps too personal and its best not to try and make sense of peoples reactions to these. If (and its still an if) Materazzi's comments were racist I would understand Zidane losing his temper and his sanity for that split second. I would not condone it, but understand it i would.
What is most frustrating (and as Confused has already blogged about) is how Zizou is now being called a 'common criminal', a 'street thug', an 'animal' and most of all of how much is being made of the fact that he comes from a ghetto background, from one of the most impoverished areas of France. Almost as if that explains it all. This was bound to happen after all wasn't it, what do you expect from someone who grew up in areas like La Castallene?
(And i have to say here, there is definitely too much hooha being made about Zidanes stamp in the '98 match against Saudi Arabia, his headbutt at Juve was vicious though).
And what of Marco Materazzi??He who claims "I am not a cultured person and I don't even know what an Islamist terrorist is." Why has FIFA taken no action against him when they obviously should have? (about action that should have been taken - the Figo headbutt anyone?)
As Mark Foot writes: "If the account is true, Materazzi would be guilty of an offence in this country: racially aggravated disorderly conduct, on the basis of abuse of someone because of their nationality. Why should footballers put up with racist abuse or racially aggravated insults without protection? If it is crime off the pitch, why (if indeed it has happened) should Materazzi feel he can insult the best player in the world for his nationality."
And racist comments aside (since they haven't been conclusively proven) what of the nipple twist?? (Why do i have a feeling that Mr. Materazzi's legacy will be to be remembered as thug and the guy who got butted by Zidane?)
To those who say Zidanes legacy has now been ruined, I have nothing to say. Those of us who have watched Zizou have to thank him for the many moments of pure genius and inspiration he has given us. He is a true masterclass. Unfortunately, we have to add to that one final moment of pure madness. Has his legacy been soiled - yes. But Zidane's legacy is so much greater than this one act. The '98 World Cup, his passes, his roulettes and yes, his headers.
Zizou, you shall always remain my hero. You do know that don't you? All I have to say to you is this - Merci. Pour tout. Thank You. For everything.
Much has been made of the Observer article by Andrew Hussey. I read it about a year back and i do think its rather good. Linked here. Another wonderful piece from The Independent on why Zizou is still Frances hero here.
Jabberwocks hilarious take on how a true Zizou fan would react to the headbutt incident - I mean sure, he had to be red-carded, no question about that. But did you see that head-butt? If you have to end your career with a head-butt, this is the perfect way to do it. It was as graceful and effective and beautiful as everything else the man has done in his entire career. Couldn't agree more.