France lost the World Cup, Zinedine Zidane’s chest-butt on Marco Materazzi is making
more news post-tournament than anything the Italians were able to achieve by
playing football.

French television overnight, the 34-year-old offered a qualified apology to
fans, saying he was sorry for the head-butt, but after listening to his mother
and sister being insulted what was he supposed to do? Just ignore it?

“He (Materazzi) pulled on my shirt several times and I told him that we
could swap shirts at the end of the game if he wanted to. He then pronounced
very tough words, words that hurt me deeply, words about my mother and my
sister. At first, I tried not to listen to him but he kept repeating them,”
Zidane said.
“I would rather have taken a punch in the jaw than have heard that.”

one of the most gifted players ever to pull on a pair of shin guards, it seems
unlikely that Zidane has not been sledged before. After playing football in
Italy with Juventus for six years, it seems even more unlikely that he hasn’t been
abused by an Italian player prior to last Sunday. It’s certainly not the first
time he has headbutted someone. In October 2000, Zidane received a five match
ban from UEFA for headbutting Jochen
Kientz of Hamburg SV, before winning the FIFA player of the year award two
months later.

difference in this case is that Zidane’s critical lack of self-control was
broadcast to the globe, and came at a costly time during the match, the
tournament, and his career. Could a more reasonable explanation be that the
moment got the better of him? Is there any shame in admitting that? And even if
Materazzi was verbally abusive, does that excuse Zidane’s physical response?

For his part, Materazzi has denied abusing Zidane’s mother. “I
didn’t mention anything about religion, politics or racism. I didn’t insult his
mother … Of course, I didn’t know that his mother was in hospital. I send her
my best wishes.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey