Thursday, July 13, 2006

Goodbye Zizou

The recently concluded World Cup in Germany saw the end of the illustrious career of one of football greats - Zinedine Zidane. The shame was the way it ended - with a red card a few minutes before the end of the final between France & Italy, for head-butting Italian defender Marco Materrazzi! Will that be the everlasting image of the great player, one of the best that we have had in recent years? I doubt that it will go away from the average fan's memories and it is sad that his considerable achivements will be forgotten in the midst of the controversy that surrounds his final game.

Born to Algerian immigrant parents in Marseilles, Zidane joined his local junior club. In 1988 he turned professional and joined French side Cannes. After four years he joined Girondins Bordeaux and came to the attention of the French faithful. Four years later he was on the move again, this time to Italy, in a 3 million pounds to
Juventus. With the Italian giants, he established himself as one of the best players in the world, forming the fulcrum of an intimidating side along with Allesandro Del Piero, Edgar Davids & Didier Deschamps. His team won two Serie A titles and lost two Champions League titles in 1997 & 1998 (to Borussia Dortmund & Real Madrid).

1998 was the year of Zidane as he lead the French side to World Cup victory in their own country. In the final he was masterful over Brazil, scoring two goals, both headers. In 2001 he would move to Real Madrid for a record fee of $66 million, forming part of the Galacticos - a group of superstar players in Madrid's squad, which included Ronaldo, Beckham, Carlos, Raul, Figo etc - and went on to further glory with them. He also scored the winning goal of the 2002 Champions League final against German side Bayer Leverkusen. He stated that he wanted to end his career as a Madrid player and played his last game in the 2005-06 season before joining the French side in the World Cup squad. Zidane was silent for the first round, peaking the second and creating the wonderful goal that Henry scored and sending holders Brazil back home. They reached the finals and faced Italy for the cup. The matched started in a very excited manner and both the teams seemed matched. Zidane even scored a first half penalty.

In the 110th minute of the World Cup final against Italy, Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest in an off the ball incident. Video replays showed Materazzi holding Zidane and pulling his shirt lightly after Italy had captured the ball in an attack by the French team. Materazzi let go, and after a brief exchange of words, Zidane walked away from him. Then, the Italian appeared to be saying something. Zidane turned around, took a few short steps, lowered his head and butted Materazzi in the chest, sending him to the ground. Although play was halted, referee Horacio Elizondo did not appear to have seen the confrontation. After the intervention of the fourth official Luis Medina Cantalejo, Zidane was shown the red card and sent off. He gave the captain's armband to Willy Sagnol (in order to hand it to Fabien Barthez) and exited the pitch.

What provocated Zidane? Some tried to read the players' lips to find out what was said and it ranges from Materrazzi calling Zidane a "terrorist" to saying suggestive things about Zidane's mother/sister/wife to using racial slurs. In an interview in France, the French maestro admited that the defender had insulted his mother & sister and reacted to that. Personally Zidane, I think you should not have head butted Marco, that was not the way to react. I THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE KICKED HIM IN THE BALLS AND THEN SPAT ON THE MOTHERFUCKER!

Fifa is planning an investigation into the matter which Materrazzi rejects saying he only said common insults and did not say anything against Zidane's mother. france has embraced Zidane and rallied around him. Many other fans have supported him and will chose to forget this and remember him for the glory he performed. He was awarded the Golden Ball (given to the player of the tournament) but Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president has said that pending the outcome of the investigation, he may be stripped of the title. Now that would be rubbing salt in his wounds.

Song for the day - "The Song Remains The Same" - LED ZEPPELIN