116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

Location: New York, New York

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Zidane: The People's Champ

"Zidane was right." That's what Okayplayer "CliffDog" said in response to a post regarding the wave of celebration from Italy's far-right factions, who have regarded the Italian victory as a win over “Negroes, communists and Moslems.” It seems that the second wave of headbutt opinion is forming, and this wave paints Zizou in a much more favorable light, as that of the hero, rising up against the storm of racial abuse.
This is probably not surprising, considering the French team's already-lofty standing as torch bearers for multiculturalism, solidified by their stand against the forces of intolerance, both at home and abroad. It was under this microscope that Marco Materazzi leveled his still-to-be-determined insult, practically guaranteeing an assumption of racial overtones in the process.
Whether or not Materazzi called Zidane (famously of Algerian-Muslim descent) a "dirty terrorist," "son of a terrorist whore," or merely "stupidface," his whole "I do not know what an Islamic terrorist is" shtick certainly did not help clear his name (who mentioned Islam, anyway, Marco?), and Zidane now begins to manifest as the vigilante hero who, in the face of FIFA's powerlessness to remove racist behavior from the game, chose to take matters into his own hands. Sure, the timing of the incident didn't help his team at all, but the stage upon which the incident took place brings a brighter spotlight than ever to soccer's racism-equals-gamesmanship culture.
Indeed, Zizou's disregard for the circumstances and consequences of his actions has boosted his populist appeal, making him the ultimate anti-racist champion, whether deserved or not. Italy may have won the Cup, but Zidane gets the postmodern victory. The story of the final is centered upon him, and to the French he may be an even bigger champion than before (of course, I'd still want the Jules Rimet), because I suppose they dig this kind of defiance. Ultimately though, only an icon the magnitude of Zinedine Zidane could have the biggest in-game meltdown in sports history and be canonized for it by (inadvertently?) creating the quintessential anti-racism commercial.


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