I was... no longer I’m... a fan of Zinedine Zidane. He started off as a footballer on the streets of Marseille. And, he ended his wonderful career in utter disgrace as a street-fighter. Instead of walking off with the Soccer World Cup, head held high, Zidane ambled away, head bowed, mid-match after being sent off by the referee.
Zidane may have his story to tell on why he violently head-butted Italian defender Marco Materazzi with just 10 minutes left in the extra-time. Materazzi may have said something very nasty to Zidane. But nothing justified what Zidane did – launching his head into the chest of the Italian, who fell back on to the ground. It was sheer madness. A man of his experience, he just couldn’t let himself fly off the handle on such an important occasion.
Only six minutes earlier, Zidane had leapt gloriously into air to head one into the goal but only to be punched off by Italian goalie Buffon. We all kept talking how Zidane could dictate the course of a match; how he was leading the French attack on Italy's impenetrable defence, especially in the second half. When he was injured, we felt how France needed him on the ground to get the victory they deserved.
After Zidane was red-carded, on his last match, I didn't want France to win. A team led by such a guy didn't deserve to win, irrespective of how well they played.
Okay, Zidane has a history of violent temper... He had once stamped his boots into the thigh of a Saudi player. I thought he had overcome that. And, it was such a shock to see the TV replay of Zidane's madness. Horrible. What a disgraceful way to end one’s glorious career. What a shame, not just for Zidane or France, even for the game.
There is an argument that since the referee didn't see Zidane's act, it wasn't an offence. It was Buffon who protested. Then, referee Horacio Elizondo of Argentina consulted the lineman; and sent Zidane out. I wouldn't agree with the view that the protest should not have been upheld this way. It was such a grave offence that the dignity and glory of the game had to be protected.
Not that Italy didn’t deserve to win: 6-4 (1-1 after extra time). With a wonderful defence, they held together against French onslaught. But, are we now going to talk about Italy or Zidane?