Merci, Zizou

Posted in Sport + Leisure by expresscheckout on 13 July, 2006

For me, the 2006 World Cup France v Italy Final will long stand out by the few moments in which the camera-shot zoomed in on Zizou tentatively walking ahead of Marco Materazzi. As the days passed, speculation has been made as to why it was that Zinedine Zidane should end his fantastic career by the unbecoming gesture on the field that soon followed.

In the instant that contact occured, it was immediately evident that something had happened and an exchange of sorts had been made. Upon viewing the footage (em português), it indeed becomes clear how blatant the provocation inflicted upon Zidane by Materazzi was. Physical contact of this perverse nature coupled with the undoubtedly harsh yet still to be ascertained words shot back at Zidane at length are enough to make even the most faithful of Azzurri supporters understand how he could have reacted the way he did.

On Canal+ (en français), Zidane recalls the incident and describes how it felt during the rapid encounter. He graciously apologizes to his fans and the thousands of spectators for his actions, and emphasizes that he does not, however, excuse what Materazzi said to him about his family.

A true rags-to-riches story, Zidane has been an inspiration to many in the banlieue and immigrant communities in France, amongst numerous others, and has helped lead the French national team to two World Cup Finals, claiming one victory. His stamina and determination have been legendary, coupled with his humility and good-will. As the French public and supporters worldwide have made clear, he will always be remembered as a brilliant athlete who contributed so much to the game of football. And to preserve the integrity of this game, I now only hope that FIFA president Sepp Blatter does not–as ‘hinted’–decide to retract Zidane’s right to claim the Golden Ball award that he most fully and certainly merits and deserves.


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