Sunday, July 09, 2006

It's Over

The Tragic Fall of Zinedine Zidane

The world's greatest sporting event came to an end today, as Italy defeated France on penalty shots. It is an understatement to say that France has an image-problem in Israel. Thus, it was no big surprise that many Israelis were cheering for Italy. Nevertheless, the French team's hard work and especially the leadership of Zinedine Zidane had earned les bleues the grudging respect of many football fans here. All this admiration, however stinting, was erased at the end of tonight's game, when "some dark force," as the Israeli commentator put it, took over the retiring 34-year-old. After an exchange of words with Marco Materazzi, Zidane knocked the Italian player to the ground with a brutal head-butt to the chest, and then went on playing as if nothing had happened (though half a minute later he began to take off his arm band). I think it is not an exaggeration to call Zidane's head-butt and his red card in the second overtime period a tragedy - in the Shakespearean sense. It was painful to see this hero fall so low. From that point on, I could not watch the game without a deep sense of disappointment.

To be fair, even in Israel, and even after Zidane's self-destructive antics, there were a few voices that continued to support France - perhaps davka this tortured outburst of rage enamored the player to a few. One fan at the cafe where I was watching the game, on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, kept repeating that Zidane was no frayer - the popular and infamous Israeli expression for a "sucker." One fan added the old adage that "you can take the boy out of the 'hood, but you can't take the 'hood out of the boy." But most of the cafes and bars on the street erupted in controlled applause and cheering when Italy clinched the cup.

Other local reactions: one fan, who seems to have been an immigrant from South America, kept insisting that the French team was not "French" - pointing at players like Makalele, Thierry, and, of course, Zidane. His neighbor seemed genuinely perturbed at this, and a small argument broke out. Strangely enough, the South American also repeated several times that he was "for the blacks," and that he liked them much more than the French. It was nevertheless a perverse observation. For all of France's social and ethnic tensions, the composition of its team seems much more "normal" than that of Italy or Germany, for example. I wonder what the South American thinks about Abbas Suan, the Israeli Arab who was one of the national team's star players during the World Cup qualifying stages.

13 comments:

Noah S. said...

Zidane is 34. I was sitting on a hill with thousands of other picnickers at Dolores Park in San Francisco when I saw him headbutt Materazzi on the big screen. Disappointed by the lack of nationalism there, I had been screaming "Vive Zidane, vive la France!" the whole game, and I was about to open my mouth again when they showed the wily Frenchman plowing into that poor Italian's sternum. Poverino! The Italians are fakers, but that was not a dive...

Flabbergasting, inexplicable. It's sad for all kinds of reasons, one obviously being that the "best player in 20 years" shouldn't have gone out like that. But honestly, in the grand scheme of things, who really cares. The more sinister potential fall-out for scandals like these is the lasting image it creates. If Zidane scored points for immigrants in France with the two goals he made in '98, showing that Frenchies with North African or Arab roots can become national heroes, now xenophobes have a response: these people are hot-headed, irrational, clearly lack the grace of a true Frenchman, etc....

Amos said...

I, too, was rooting for France, and especially for Zidane. But I think this thing has legs and is not going away. There is already quite a bit of speculation about what Materazzi said to Zidane. There are rumors to the effect that M said something about Zizou's sister.

I'm glad to hear you represented in SF (for Zidane, and against Bay Area liberal, post-nationalism).

By the way, I talked to two young Arab Israelis from Yafo recently, on the southern part of the promenade along the beach. They were looking for a place to watch the game. This was when Germany was still in the running. Well, they made sure to tell me that they did not want Germany to win. Then, they raved about Zidane and how he had made Ronaldo look like a little child in the match against Brazil.

Amos said...

And I corrected the age in my post. Thanks, Noah.

Derek said...

When keeping it real goes terribly wrong...

At least they only burned 30-40 cars in la banlieue

Amos said...

Apparently, I was not the only one to see the Shakespearean dimension in this. See Yoav Borovich's Ha'aretz blog (Hebrew), published after my post. The title is "Tragediah Shakespearit" [Shakespearean Tragedy]. BITERS!

Noah Kaye said...

What Zizou did couldn't have been better for the game of soccer in the USA. But most Americans, like most Italians, aren't kept up at night by this. But I am! What the #$@%! There are final several theories out there. The famous French anti-racism group "SOS Racisme," perhaps best known for its wonderful slogan of yesteryear, "Ne touche pas mon pote (Don't touch my buddy)," is calling for a FIFA investigation into rumors that Materazzi called Zidane a "dirty terrorist." Perhaps more plausible is the Independent's report that it was Zizou's sister that got trashed -- called a prostitute as part of a diatribe that included disses of the captain and his whole team. One more theory: something about a doping scandal when Zidane was with Juventus, Materazzi insinuated that Zizou was the real Lance Armstrong. Jennie makes two great points. She asks: roid rage? And what language was it in? The players have no idea, which is the crazy thing, I really think it sounds like they don't know. Maybe only his agent knows, maybe his mama. Oh yeah, there's some suggestion Materazzi dogged her out too.

Noah S. said...

Check out http://imzidanebitch.ytmnd.com.

I'll tell you what, I heard the rumor about calling Zizou a terrorist, too, and I'll tell you what else, if that italiano called him that then it all makes more sense. I mean, come on, yo mama and sista jokes are vanilla - it doesn't add up. Zidane apparently has a nasty temper, but I just don't see it. "Not here, not now," as the French announcer said. If the rumor is true--and we'll never know--it would be ironic and sad considering the big fuss FIFA made about combatting racism this world cup. Wouldn't we understand if it had been a Jewish player and someone called him a kike? Or a black player called a nigger? Terrorista or terroriste, in whatever language Materazzino used, the slur would have been equivalent to those terms. Anyway, this is all idle speculation, but I'm just saying, I would understand (though still not approve of) Zizou's head butt. Which, by the way, goes up there with the Mike Tyson ear bite in the annals of sports infamy. He should have just waited till the game was over and jumped the guy in the parking lot or something.

Noah Kaye said...

I'd be shocked if it was a mama joke, but believe it or not, I read somewhere (L'Equipe?) that this was a red line for Z. It blows Tyson's move out of the water: remember, Holyfield was BEATING Tyson badly, while France was threatening to score on a poorly conditioned Italian team. But will surely be just as infamous.

Noah Kaye said...

Alright, so Corriere della Sera says not a mama joke. Materazzi's mother died when he was 12, so apparently it's unlikely. He says Zidane told him, "If you want my jersey so bad [M. had grabbed it], I'll give it you after." M. responded with an insult. He claims in the Italian press it was the kind of insult hurled dozens of times each game...and definitely NOT the terrorist thing.

Noah S. said...

"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."

32 years old, lives in Milan and doesn't know what an Islamic terrorist is!

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=373723&cc=5901

Noah Kaye said...

So they have a LIP READER on the case! Check out this Daily Sun article: http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2006310771,00.html.

His mother is sick and was hospitalized. Of course, Zizou understands Italian from his Juventus days. Son of a terrorist whore!

John said...

Daaamn, this shit is funny, especially the Materazzi quote. I just noticed that we got 125 hits yesterday, the majority of them were people who googled "zidane head butt" and other such things. One person typed in "What is Zidane's ethnicity" or something along those lines. I thought I'd chip in my two cents about some linguistic issues. French people of North African origin are notorious in my books for weird transliterations of their names. In academia, the name Zinédine would be transliterated Zīn al-Dīn or Zīn ad-Dīn. In Arabic, the D sound is elided when it comes after the article al, so that the phrase al-Din ("the faith") is pronounced ad-Din. That is also part of the reason why the name of the 10th century Kurdish Muslim military leader Salāh al-Dīn was transcribed Saladin by western writers. There are a lot of Arabic compound names that include a prefix and then the phrase "al Din" . Zin al-Din or Zinedine, if you will, means something like "beauty of the faith".

Amos said...

I, too, was most intrigued by the question of language - i.e., in which one would Materazzi have insulted Zizou. I read about the lip reader yesterday in the free newspaper that they hand out on the train in Israel - there was a huge story on Materazzi (the "bad man" of football), almost as big as the Katsav groping scandal. Noah's explanation that Zidane would know Italian from his Juventus days makes sense. All this reminds me of the Robbie Alomar spitting incident; wasn't there also a suggestion that the ump. had delivered either a racist or a mother insult?