Monday, July 10, 2006

France Loses Its Head

When Zinedine Zidane torro'ed his way into Marco Materazzi's chest last night I realized that only one of two things must have provoked it: Materazzi either insulted Zizou's mother or made a racist comment. The sleuths are out investigating and it is only a matter of time before we find out the truth. It soiled Italy's win and France's loss but I don't believe it will be a lasting image of Zidane's legacy -- it may be that he used his head (literally) because his right hand was bandaged and incapable of delivering the blow Materazzi undoubtedly warranted on himself. But this is not the first time Zizou has head-butted an opponent and been penalized for it. In 2000, while a player for Juventus he did the same to Hamburg's Jochen Kientz who, unlike Materazzi, was actually seriously injured: a concussion and a fractured cheek bone. In the end, the saddest part of it all was that Zidane was not allowed onto the pitch to receive the 2nd place medal along with his team --that's just cruel.

This extraordinary behavior is embarrassing and unbecoming of a world class athlete, which is what has most upset his fans. But Zidane is a remarkable symbol of racing past the odds of racism and poverty to reach the heights of one's field. This more than anything will be his legacy. And the Golden Ball award for the Best Player of the tournament is a testament to his character and ability on the pitch (fortunately, it was voted on before the whole bullfight incident).

As for the Italians, it was a well-deserved win and Camoranesi rightly announced at the end of the penalty shoot-out that this win was for Roberto Baggio -- the 1994 captain who famously missed the crucial penalty kick against Brazil in the finals and lost the game for Italy. Had it not been for the red card, the game would have been a sensation in World Cup finals history and nonetheless was the most exciting one I've ever watched. Bravo Italia!

Labels: ,