Zinedine Zidane finally spoke out about his clash with Materazzi in the World Cup final (a clash that left Materazi flattened on the floor and got Zidane a straight red card).
What Zidane Said
Speaking in a live interview on Canal Plus (French television channel), Zidane said:
‘The reaction is always punished but if there is no provocation there is no reaction. The guilty person is the one who provokes.”
‘If I reacted that way, it is because something bad happened. Do you really believe that 10 minutes before the end of my career I would be able to make such a bad gesture? The provocation was very serious.”
“There was no tension with Materazzi before or during the match.”
“He just put his hand on to my shirt and I told him to stop. I told him that if he wanted it I could give it to him at the end of the match.”
“Then he said very harsh words to me and repeated them several times. I left but then I went back towards him and things went very fast.”
“The words he said concerned my mother and sister.”
“I heard them once, then twice, and the third time I couldn’t control myself. I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions.”
“I would have rather been knocked down than hear that.”
“Afterwards I explained to the referee that I had been provoked, but my behaviour is not forgivable.”
“I reacted badly and I would like to apologise for it.”
“I would like to apologise because a lot of children were watching the match. I do apologise but I don’t regret my behaviour because regretting it would mean he was right to say what he said.”
“This is a decision I have made and I will not go back on it. This is definite. I will not play again.”
What Materazzi Said
“I didn’t mention anything about religion, politics or racism.”
“I didn’t insult his mother. I lost my mother when I was 15 years old and still get emotional when I talk about it.”
“Naturally, I didn’t know that his mother was in hospital but I wish her all the best.”
“Zidane is my hero and I have always admired him a lot.”
Now what? No racist comments apparently, so Materazzi will not be hounded for a ban because of it. However, what Zidane has done is bring attention to the sort of banter that is part of football – disgraceful, but still a part of it.
I hope that this makes football more civilised, but doesn’t take out the passion and anger that make football more than just a game. Materazzi, if Zidane is telling the truth, should be made Rooney’s stomping grounds for a few days.
But Zizou…if someone says something bad, have the sense to wait till the match is over before reacting. You did well in proving your manhood, but mate, you blew it.