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Archive for the ‘World Cup’ Category

It’s only marginally worse to physically attack an opponent on the pitch than to toss around insults. Brilliant. I am rather disgusted at the whole Zidane 3-match ban-Materazzi 2-match ban, but I really can’t say any more about it than I already have. Suffice it to say, I think FIFA shot itself in the arse with this one. I expect a spate of tribunals every time a player has an altercation with another. Either that or they’ll have to set up an elaborate microphone system with interpreters so as to catch every ‘fuck off’ that’s uttered. Can you imagine? And then the eventuality that millions of dollars worth of equipment would be destroyed the first time someone went for the headbutt to the sternum. Perhaps FIFA could hire some church ladies to police. You know, washing out mouths with soap, tugging players off the pitch by their ears. Paul Doyle at the Guardian has a really good piece about this, but I can’t be arsed to link it as I’m awaiting a houseguest and ever so slightly hung over.

Thuram to Barcelona, which is not so great for Arsenal. Here’s hoping he’s on tour this summer so that I might bask in his majestic presence.Of course, I’ll have to wear my Francia shirt now.

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I don’t always agree with (or read, for that matter) Gabriele Marcotti. Actually, I think I’ve only read one of his pieces before, following Arsenal’s defeat in the Champions League and heaven knows that was an event to move past as quickly as possible. This piece, however, neatly sums up the mixed feelings I’ve had over the Zidane-Materazzi debaucle.
As much as one wants, following an incident such as that, to sit back and wait for some indication of what really happened, it is physically impossible (short of boycotting all sports media) to not read news of the latest rumor masquerading as The Word of The Football Gods.
It has bothered me from the start that everyone, including me, immediately assumed that Matrix must have seriously provoked Zizou for him to have such a strong reaction. After expressing this to my husband, he turned to me and said, in that sort of exasperated Obi-Wan way he has, “Does it really matter what he said? Why does it have to be racial?”
Busted. I fell into the trap that has closed around so many people–Zizou is Zizou. Who the hell is Materazzi?
The truth is that everyone was ready to blame the victim. Maybe because we’ve been so ingrained to distrust Italian football following the scandals. Maybe because it was wonderful to see the French team rise above statements of bigotry made by Le Pen and general doubt about their fitness and age (and early Cup play.) I don’t know, and frankly I really don’t care. I read on message boards such widely-varying reasons as Italians are racists, Materazzi is an erratic player, the Italians were cheating (what?) and Materazzi is an animal because he tackles hard.
Well, of course, there are racists in Italy as there are in every corner of the world. This hardly means that all Italians are racists, any more than the existence of the KKK means that all Americans are racists. An erratic player? Maybe with Inter, but in this Cup, Materazzi proved he deserved his place on the team. An animal for going in hard on people? Would anyone say this about Michael Essien and not get massacred?
No, it was easier to call Matrix names than to admit that Zidane might have been out of line. And he was out of line, no matter what was said to him. He let his team down when they needed their talisman the most, and while they may have lost anyway, at least we would be talking about the remarkable play of all but ten minutes of the game rather than this one incident.

A little background from my perspective. I went into the game torn as to who I wanted to win. I love both teams and finally decided that I just wanted to see good football. I was not disappointed. For the first time in the tournament, I was happy to see extra time because I was simply not ready for the match to end. And then the Head of Zizou turned excitement to disbelief. I will remember, as much as the Italians celebrating the victory they fairly won, the image of Lillian Thuram with tears running down his face being consoled by the limping Patrick Vieira. Thuram deserved more from Zidane. Vieira, Sagnol, Ribery, Henry, poor Trezueguet. They all deserved more.
And in the aftermath of Zidane’s violent act and the wild speculation about what could make him do such a thing, Materazzi deserves more. He deserves an apology for being called so many horrible things. Without it we run the risk of building another footballer into an untouchable hero at the expense of the guys who play hard for their teams without the glory.

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Some Thoughts on the Final

What should have been the feel-good game of the tournament was not. Sure,
if one of the lesser-ranked teams had made it to the finals the story
would be prettier on paper, but as it stood this morning every football
fan could be happy at seeing the Italians emerge from the ashes of
match-fixing scandal and the disjointed Veterans of France come together
for one last go at glory. And so it stood until the bastion of The Cup,
the talisman, the only truly huge name standing did the unthinkable–took
out his exhaustion and frustration at another player in what could only be
described as an act of sheer violence. Zinedine Zidane, held up for an
audience of millions around the world as an honorable warrior, took out
Marco Materazzi for No Good Reason.
There are some who will insist that The Beloved Zizou was provoked, just
as there are some who will blame Cristiano Ronaldo for the sending off of
Wayne Rooney. These people, human and with opinions that may be based
more on personal taste than on fair play, will always exist. There will
always be people to say that Rooney is young; part of the learning
experience is gaining control of one’s emotions. What excuse, then, for
Zizou? He was supposed to be our Pele, our Maradona. Instead he lost his
head, despite a better result than anyone could’ve hoped for.
Let us not forget that leading into this Cup the French were fighting atop
Alps on team-building excursions. Raymond Domenach was considered a joke
of a manager. And yet, up until the Head of Zizou, he was orchestrating,
whether by stars or by smarts, one of the best French sides in years.
Nobody would’ve predicted that France would make it to the finals despite
scores of talent–young in Ribery, Henry, Malouda, Gallas and old in
Thuram, Zidane, Makalele.
Today those of us who love football and valiant efforts were left with a
bitter taste in our mouths. Zidane, our hero, is only human; a footballer
rather than an ambassador. Today cannot erase the brilliant play Zidane
has given us over the years, but it certainly does make us look at him in
a different light. France should look back at this game as an example of
what teamwork can overcome, but I fear they, and we, will remember it as
the ultimate cost of selfishness. Perhaps that is a more valuable lesson.

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