Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What Made Zidane See Red?

Watching the 2006 World Cup, my heart was with Zinédine Zidane, the French superstar midfielder. He was playing in his last ever tournament and, as his World Cup MVP award will attest, he dazzled with the greatness of days past.

I also like Zidane because he is a Frenchman of Algerian descent who calls himself a non-practicing Muslim and who dedicated France's 1998 World Cup victory to "all Algerians who are proud of their flag and all those who have made sacrifices for their family but who have never abandoned their own culture." In short, he's everything that France and the rest of Europe would like to keep out.

There is now news that the shocking behavior that got him ejected in overtime from the 2006 final may have been provoked by anti-Muslim epithets hurled at him and his family by Italian defender (and star of Inter Milan, a club well known to have a strong fascist following) Marco Materazzi.

The Times of London got expert lipreader Jessica Rees to review the exchange that preceded Zidane's headbutt. With the help of an Italian translator, Rees determined that Materazzi called Zidane "the son of a terrorist whore" before adding "so just f**k off." Wikipedia's version of events has Materazzi saying, "hold on, wait, that one's not for a nigger like you," before making the "terrorist" remark. The New Republic contends that Materazzi called Zidane's father a harki, "the Arabic term for Algerians who fought for France against Algeria during the occupation. It's beyond all insults, the ultimate traitor."

Materazzi, unsurprisingly, has denied saying any such thing, hoping we'll believe that Zidane's attack was simply unprovoked. So far Zidane has been silent on the matter, preferring to let his forehead do the talking.
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