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Zidane And The ‘War On Terror’

By Gabriele Zamparini

12 July, 2006

“The France legend, playing in his final match before retirement, was dismissed in extra-time for chestbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi” the Guardian reported.

“Zinédine Zidane's despicable, unfathomable act of violence” (1) has been unanimously blamed as a “stupid reaction”, a “disgrace”. “How sad that he should save the most shameful episode for the final page of his story” wrote the BBC. (2)

Yes, but why? Why did the 34 year old experienced football player who has just been awarded the Golden Ball as the best player at the World Cup do it?

Guardian’s journalist Kevin McCarra wrote “there were suggestions last night that Materazzi had called him ‘a terrorist’” [emphasis added] (3)

Only Zidane and Materazzi know the truth and it would be interesting to know what they have to say about these “suggestions”.

If they are confirmed, Zidane’s gesture, far from being the “despicable, unfathomable act of violence” will be seen as the only link to reality of this World Cup.

If these “suggestions” are confirmed, that red card will tell a completely different story. Still a “stupid reaction” according to the FIFA’s rules maybe, Zidane’s act will be remembered as the most human reaction to racism and hypocrisy. He won’t be anymore the fake “hero” praised by the business-corrupted football circus but something way far more important: a man of moral integrity who didn’t sell himself and didn’t compromise for a golden cup, the money coming from it and a glossed image a world of strangers enjoyed.

If the ‘war on terror’ played a role in the 2006 World Cup, Zidane’s answer is not a disgrace but an act of courage that deserves to be acknowledged for what it is.

If Italian football player Materazzi really called Zidane ‘a terrorist’, FIFA should strip Italy of the World Cup and leave the 2006 tournament without a winner.

Whatever decision the FIFA will take, people could still make their voice heard by boycotting the Italian football team wherever and whenever will play.

Football – and not only in Italy – doesn’t live by itself on a far away planet. In times of ‘war on terror’ and ‘preemptive wars’, Zidane’s gesture has the power of a strong and just call to reality.

If Italian football player Materazzi really called Zidane ‘a terrorist’, Zidane’s gesture should be seen for what it really represents: a political statement directed to all of us.


The Guardian has just "updated" its article.

"A red card rather than a greetings card ushered Zinédine Zidane into retirement 19 minutes into extra-time. The captain was sent off for reacting to a dispute with Marco Materazzi by turning and butting the scorer of Italy's goal in the chest. He had surely been provoked - there were suggestions last night that Materazzi had called him "a terrorist" - but Zidane will be right to curse his stupid reaction."

A red card rather than a greetings card ushered Zinédine Zidane into retirement 19 minutes into extra-time. The captain was sent off for reacting to a dispute with Marco Materazzi by turning and butting the scorer of Italy's goal in the chest. He had surely been provoked but Zidane will be right to curse his stupid reaction.
That sentence - there were suggestions last night that Materazzi had called him "a terrorist" - is no more in the article. And no explanation is given.


That sentence - there were suggestions last night that Materazzi had called him "a terrorist" - after being deleted by the Guardian, is now back in the Guardian's article!!!


The Paris-based anti-racism advocacy group SOS-Racism issued a statement Monday quoting "several very well informed sources from the world of football" as saying Materazzi called Zidane a "dirty terrorist." It demanded that FIFA, soccer's world governing body, investigate and take any appropriate action. (AP)


FIFA will open a disciplinary investigation into Zinedine Zidane's conduct in the World Cup final, when he was sent off for head-butting Italy's Marco Materazzi.

World soccer's governing body said Tuesday the incident had been spotted by the fourth official without using a monitor, who then alerted referee Horacio Elizondo through their communications system.

"FIFA will open a disciplinary investigation into Zidane's conduct to enable it to clarify the circumstances surrounding the incident as exactly as possible," FIFA said in a statement.

Zidane and Materazzi exchanged words after Italy broke up a French attack in extra-time of Sunday's final in Berlin. Seconds later, Zidane lowered his head and rammed Materazzi in the chest, knocking him to the ground.

Zidane was sent off, reducing France to 10 men. Italy won the game in a penalty shootout.

Referring to Zidane being voted the player of the tournament by journalists, FIFA said the ballot boxes remained open at the main media center in Berlin until midnight on Sunday. The game was over by then.

"It is impossible to determine how many journalists cast their votes before the match and how many during it, as the ballot papers were not counted until after the deadline for voting had expired," FIFA said.

Materazzi admitted he insulted Zidane before the France captain head-butted him, but denied calling him a "terrorist."

"I did insult him, it's true," Materazzi said in Tuesday's Gazzetta dello Sport. "But I categorically did not call him a terrorist. I'm not cultured and I don't even know what an Islamic terrorist is."

The 32-year-old Inter Milan player did not elaborate exactly on what he said to Zidane.

"It was one of those insults you're told tens of times and that always fly around the pitch," he said.

FIFA to investigate Zidane's head butt, AP, July 11, 2006


Lip readers employed by British newspapers claim France captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the World Cup final in retaliation for racist, vulgar comments by Italian defender Marco Materazzi. (…)

The Times newspaper hired Jessica Rees, whose skill has seen her summoned as an expert witness at criminal trials, to study a tape of Sunday's match that saw Zidane get a red card for his seemingly spontaneous assault.

"After an exhaustive study of the match video, and with the help of an Italian translator, Rees claimed Materazzi called Zidane 'the son of a terrorist whore' before adding 'so just f*** off' for good measure," it said.

The Daily Mail, which wrongly described Marseille's native Zidane as "Algeria-born", said it had also engaged the services of a lip reader, whom it did not identify, who reached the exact same conclusion as Rees.

The Independent cited lip readers for Brazil's Globo television as concluding Materazzi had told Zidane his sister was a "prostitute".

Paris-based anti-racism group SOS Racisme says Materazzi apparently called Zidane a "dirty terrorist", citing "several very well informed sources from the world of football".

Lip reader's take on Materazzi insult, REUTERS, July 11, 2006


France has complained to World Cup winner Italy about a right-wing senator's racist comments that the defeated French team was made up of "blacks, Muslims and communists", the Italian media reported on Tuesday.

Racism has already threatened to cloud Italy's victory, with reports that Italian defender Marco Materazzi provoked French star Zinedine Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, by calling him a "terrorist". Materazzi denies making such comments.

There was no such denial from Roberto Calderoli of the Northern League, who lost a ministerial post in a centre-right government earlier this year for wearing a T-shirt with cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad offensive to Muslims.

As the victorious Azzurri returned to a heroes' welcome in Rome on Monday, Calderoli celebrated it as a "political victory" over a mixed-race French team.

Italy had "beat a team which, in the quest for results, sacrificed its own identity by selecting blacks, Muslims and communists", the senator said, in comments that were rejected by members of Italy's new centre-left coalition government.

Italian newspapers La Stampa and Corriere della Sera quoted a letter of protest from French ambassador Yves Aubin de La Messuziere to the Italian Senate, saying: "Such unacceptable and despicable comments can only foment hatred."

"France is proud of a team whose members are all its sons, whatever their origins or religion," he wrote, adding that some of the French players insulted by Calderoli played in Italian teams "where they are very popular".

France angered by Italy senator's racist soccer slur, REUTERS, Jul 11, 2006


“Italian defender Marco Materazzi has for the first time acknowledged that he "insulted" French player Zinedine Zidane because he was super arrogant in the World Cup final, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported on Tuesday. (…) "I held his shirt... for only a few seconds, he turned toward me and scoffed at me, looking at me with super arrogance, up and down: 'if you really want my shirt, you can have it later'. (Zidane said) It's true, I shot back with an insult," the paper quoted Materazzi as saying. Asked whether he had insulted Zidane's sister or mother, Materazzi said, it was an "insult of the kind you will hear dozens of times and that just slips out on the ground. I certainly didn't call him a terrorist; I am ignorant, I don't even know what an Islamic terrorist is (…) I certainly did not mention Zidane's mother; for me a mother is sacred."

Zidane arrogant – Materazzi, AFP, 11 Jul 2006


Right now, we do not know beyond a shadow of a doubt what was said but all the circumstantial evidence points at least toward a variant of SOS Racisme’s claim. Zissou is the son of Algerian immigrants who has sparred verbally with Europe's far-right political machine for more than a decade. He is an outspoken anti-racist on a team that has defined itself by its multiculturalism and stubborn insistence to stand up against bigotry both inside and outside the sport. Materazzi on the other hand, will be playing this year for the Italian team Lazio, where his father was the former coach. Lazio’s fan club, The Ultras, are notorious for their Fascist-friendly politics. Lazio’s hardcore Ultras, known as the "Irriducibili," have members in Italy's extra-parliamentary far right and try to use the club to recruit. The group has frequently used racist and anti-Semitic banners, one time hanging a 50-foot banner that said their opponents were a "team of niggers." It’s wrong to taint Materazzi for the actions of Lazio’s fans, but there is more. Earlier this season in a match that pitted Messina against Inter in Sicily, Messina's star African player Marc Zoro famously picked up the ball and walked off the pitch in protest of the monkey chants rained upon him by Inter supporters. In a stirring act of solidarity, many of the Inter players immediately showed support for Zoro’s actions. But one opponent yelled, "Stop that, Zoro, you're just trying to make a name for yourself." That opponent's name was Marco Materazzi.

Why Today I Wear My Zidane Jersey, By Dave Zirin


Lazio is the club forever associated with fascism. It was Mussolini's team and he was often seen in the stands.

Footballer's 'fascist salute' row, BBC News, 9 January, 2005


"I am a fascist, not a racist. I made the Roman salute because it's a salute from a comrade to his comrades and was meant for my people. With this stiff arm I do no want to incite violence or racial hatred."

Di Canio 'fascist but not racist', BBC News, 23 December 2005


1) Losing the plot. Zidane was a disgrace, but it was Domenech who cost France the match, Rob Smith, Guardian, 9 July 2006

2) Zidane's red mist, By Phil McNulty, BBC News, 9 July 2006

3) Italy strike gold as Zidane sees red, Kevin McCarra, Guardian, July 10, 2006

(*) Gabriele Zamparini is a writer, filmmaker and activist at









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