Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The eternal paradox of Zinedine Zidane

When we tuned in to watch the World Cup finals on Sunday, we expected to see the great Zinedine Zidane end his splendid career elevated to a god-like status, hovering perhaps just a step below Pelé and Maradona.

What we got instead was a crushing reminder of his red-blooded mortality. And it threw us down to a very hard earth.

For 110 minutes of scintillating football, Zidane continued to show us why we regard him so highly, even placing him in a select category above Cryuff, Beckenbauer, Best and his compatriot Platini.

But one nipple tweak and a (terrorist?) comment later, and he lets the footballing world, his fans, France, and mostly himself terribly down. It was perhaps one of the saddest images to ever be seen in a football game, that of a dejected Zizou trudging alone and desolate to the tunnel of Berlin’s Olympiastadion, walking past the polished trophy that millions expected him to hold aloft at precisely that point in the evening.

It was a devastating moment, and dealt a shockingly sick hammer-blow which many will never get over. What was worse was that nobody in the world – Zizou included – could hope to argue against the validity of that red card; on the contrary it would have been a travesty had he not been shown one.

We could expect and even foresee such a folly coming from the petulant likes of Rooney or Beckham, or even Luis Figo... but Zidane? Not in a match like this, surely?

It really wasn’t supposed to end like this.

But the red mist is like that: Sometimes when you’re caught in it, the mind calculates so many permutations of possible actions and resulting consequences, and in spite of the heightened awareness and a crippling sense of clarity, you conspire against your own will to take the worst course of action.

The red mist is not a loss of self-control. It is in spite of all self-control.

Either team could have won the final. Trezeguet’s missed penalty really wasn’t that bad, in fact it was probably better than most scored penalties in a shoot-out. The Italians were clinical in taking their spot kicks, but so were the French. Both teams had their chances to finish it off in normal and in extra time.

All the same, France could have lost even with Zidane on the pitch. Italy could have won even without Zidane on it. The speculations are endless. And might I add, pointless.

The point is that we will all perhaps never come to terms with why Zidane committed that heinous act, in full view of the world and the best cameras the Euro could buy, and on the sport’s biggest stage, in what was the last competitive match of his life.

We will never understand how a man could summon all the calm in the world to take the penalty that gave France the lead in Berlin’s smoldering cauldron – scoring with ruthless, cheeky efficiency – and within the same game bring a crushing end to his journey, with a foolishness of such epic proportions it even borders on being English.

Let nothing detract from a professional life well lived, though. Frenchmen wondering what they will tell their children of Zidane after this incident need only cast their eyes back for about 15 years to see how much he has contributed to French football. For all that and more, they should – as should all football fans – clap a collective “Merci, Zizou” at anytime he is remembered.

And it is thoroughly fitting that FIFA chose to look beyond that to offer him the 2nd best accolade of the tournament, that of being acclaimed its best player. Once again, judging on his Real Madrid form this last season, who on earth would have foreseen that?

Oh, Zizou... will we ever understand?


Mamabola said...

I wondered what you would say after Sunday's final... but once again Keropok, congratulations for a commentary filled with so much heartbreak and objectivity.

"...in spite of the heightened awareness and a crippling sense of clarity, you conspire against your own will to take the worst course of action.

The red mist is not a loss of self-control. It is in spite of all self-control."

Where do you get all this?????

Anonymous said...

What an exit for Zidane!!!. That’s for sure. He could have earned this Headline with the World Cup in his hand but today the same headline carries a different story to it. Definitely, this story will go down in the history of world cup. The story of Zidane has ended and his exit will be remembered forever, but the Legend will continue.

I choose not to judge him over what happen last night. I choose to judge him for all the great moments of brilliance he showed to the football world.

Zidane just reminded us all that football is still human and not robotic as what many fans inhumanely demand. The incident for me unearths those human factors that seem to be buried and forgotten under the green carpet of technicalities and strategies.

At this moment, I remember the infamous incidents of Eric Cantona’s Karate Kick and Diego Maradona’s 1982 exit and how these incidents re-affirm that there is no perfection in greatness. Zidane have joined the ranks of those who will be hailed as forgiven legends.

It’s sad though to see how Zidane completed his career. Anyway, fairytale ending are just an imaginary tale in this real raw world.

Bravo Zinedine and Thank You for Those great display of Football all these years.


lilyliverbird said...

I feel so sad for Zidane :( But his many achievements will not be diminished just because of one 'red mist' moment, surely?

And you are right. Had it been becky or looney, no one would have batted an eyelid. Speaking of batted eyelid, did you catch christina posing 'cute-cute' during the 3rd placing match?

visithra said...

i love reading ur footie posts theres always so much passion ;)

S.PLAY said...

The only happiness I take from watching that video is WOW! Zizou really gave it to that Italian bastard!!!

The eye-talians are bloody cheats, and nobody censures them for it. Good luck Materrazi playing in the Champions league against the likes of Gallas, Vieira, Henry, (add in any ex-Real Madrid player here), or any other self-respecting footballer. I hope they single him out for a lot of abuse!

I hate that dirty fucker!!! And remember he had a red card against the Aussies too...... so he isn't exactly an angel.

mamabola said...

Agreed with Visithra....... so much passion in your posts Keropok...... don;t give up now that the WC is over, kep 'em coming yeah.... :)

K.M.Phang said...

Once again Keropok..... another great post.....

Salut, Zizou (oops, is that an Italian toast?)

I agree with K.Shan that we sometimes hold these superstars to impossible standards........ they are human after all arent they?

anjali* said...

Vis, this keropok guy has passion for football.

Whatever it is, I still think ZZ should be rememebered for all the good things he had done, and not by one last act of nonself-control.

But having said that, we humans have the innate tendency to only remember the bad things. And that's such a shame. Sigh.

Ariel said...

you're right. it reminded us that he is mortal after all. and as mortals there's no one who's exempted from that red mist.

Ariel said...

and by understanding that (no one' exempted the red mist) i think we'll be able to see him for what he really is, and not judge him based on what he did wrong the other day.

(sorry, tersilap tekan publish just now and comment had to be broken into 2)

Anonymous said...

I don't feel sorry for Zidane. Whatever MM said, however grevious, sick or degrading....... committing a foul like that (a crime of battery even) has no excuse..... not for someone like ZZ who is an icon of the game and is expected to set a good example, however badly treated. his millions in earnings and the adulation demands just that.

he should have restrained himself, and let the world know exactly what MM said after the game through the media. that would really tarnish MM and increase ZZ's standing.

Or at least unleash that Gallas feller to really "punch his face in".

Still, i think there should be an inquest into MM and exactly what he said. foul play tarnished this world cup, and i hope FIFA get to the bottom of this.

Keropok said...

!Mamabola, Visithra, Anjali, Ariel: Thanks for the compliments. It was truly heartbreaking seeing the ref reach into his pocket for that red card. What's worse was that is was deserved! I really didnt care what happened after that... :(

!K Shan: Right about it bro... We sometimes hold people like ZZ up to ridiculous standards. It must have been something really sordid that Materrazi fler said!

!lilyliverbird: What a waste... It's nice seeing the French and Chirac applauding him though... the right spirit!

Keropok said...

!S.PLAY: Let's hope the Gallases of this world keep their promise. I don't like batu-api (instigator) players like Materrazi or Cronaldo.

!KM Phang: Zizou spent years in Italy (Juventus) so he knows exactly what Materazzi said. Apparently after the nipple tweaking, ZZ said "I really don't like it" to which MM replied "But your mother really does.... you Arab terrorist, you're not fit to play for France. Fuck off..."

And ZZ's mother Melina was ill at that time...

Keropok said...

!Anon: To each his own, I guess. True, no excuse for Zizou's reaction, but remember this was a pulsating cauldron, with so much at stake, and in the midst of it you throw a clown like MM in..... anything could happen.

Mong said...

We will never understand, is the answer Keropok!

Foolish, foolish Zizou!

Anonymous said...

I think this is a very naive reaction from a so-called football enthusiast. You know so little about the game, and make as if you know so much. Typical of all MU fans..... you guys think only what you believe to be true is true, and dismiss everything else.

You agree Zidane did wrong (horribly wrong) and still you choose to glorify him.


Keropok said...

!Mong: If only...

!Anon 2: Please let me know the basis of your feedback, and perhaps I'll provide a response.

If you're not prepared to be specific, at least have the Michael Ballacks / decency to leave a name or contact. Hiding behind an anonymous tag doesn't do you much credit Brother / Sister / Whatever...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

i was dissapointed myself to see what i saw on sunday. i wanted to speak up for him, hey... i was just watching via internet courtesy(sp?) of BBC ;-) but then, it came to my mind, it's like the story of Lady Diana... We're always fed with the fairytale stories, from the movies that we watch and to the story books that we've been reading... expecting the fairytale ending...

but i know the french at least the president himself had a pat on his shoulder and made it known to the nation appreciating him. they made a coverage about where he comes from, why he has that flaw in himself, how he climbed up to where he is/was whichever u choose.

kalau tak de the headbutting, his story, his root, his background, his passion, his determination, why he acted such an act on that sunday night (though he'd done this before tru out his career)... name it, add it... will not be widely under coverage. see God has prepare a lot more lessons for others be it good or bad. I think people will forget him even faster if it's a fairytale ending. or rather, people didn't take a note of his root. and furthermore, prob the french didn't even bother to stand up if it was racism in the field.

only good heart will see all this, one of them is the president of france himself.

anon across the strait of dover.

Tenacious T said...

Hey dude, nice blog you have here. Great post on Zizou. Firstly, I don't condone his headbutt but as a footie fan, let's not overlook his decade of achievements over 5 minutes of madness. Zidane's a great football talent of our time and he's no cheat - for that, I respect him. I believe FIFA feels the same way and handed him the Golden Ball award.

visithra said...

Dont worry zizou fans - his image wont be tarnished coz of this - if we all can regard maradona as great even after his hand of god goal - zidane will prevail too

only 2006 wc wont be known as the lousy refereeing year - it will be the headbutt wc

ps : im getting sick of every tom ndick coming up with analysis's on it when they don't even watch football!! Hello ull have to watch the game to comment!

Mong said...

Aiyah... Visithra... are you one of those football fascists Keropok talks about. We hope not.....

The beauty about football is that everyone can tok-kok lorr, everyone is an armchair critic. Usually more visible during World CUp, but even round the year you find non-football fans tok-ing kok lorr.

No big deal what?

Daniel Franklin Gomez said...

Obviously, nobody condones Zidane's headbutting. (Apparently it's not his first either). Nevertheless, he is arguably the greatest player in recent times. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone loses it...so what?

We will commemorate Zidane for his wondrous contribution to football.

Keropok said...

!Anon 2... the one behaving like a wanker: Err... nothing to say dude. You don't merit a response.

!Anon 3, Tenacious T, Visithra, Daniel: Zidane will be remembered, head-butt notwithstanding. How can you NOT credit a player like that with all that he has achieved. He's easily in my top 3 all time greats, which was where he was before Sunday.

!Mong: Visithra is a good deal la bro..... I don't think she's one of the football fascists we speak about.

She prolly hates those annoying Beckham lovers, right Vis? :)

Mong said...

Visi.... no offence meant, yeah :)

visithra said...

Hheheh thanks keropok

alamak mong im not la - i love footie talk - how can u watch the game without the talk and opinions but from fans not hype fans - u know like the person who asks y ronaldo in portugal team when my friend said brazil hehehe that still cracks me up ;p

Keropok said...

I just read that an Italian senator, in congratulating his team, said this:

"Italy had beat a team which, in the quest for results, sacrificed its own identity by selecting blacks, Muslims and communists.'

The fight against racism... Is it getting better, or worse by the day?

FIFA must look at the Zidane - Materazzi incident with som measure of seriousness, and at the very least dismiss the allegation if indeed it is found to be untrue.

But if it is true, MAterazzi must be sanctioned. Stripping him off his medal? Some international ban?

The cloth banner in the center circle alone will not cut it, Mr Blatter. The ball is in your court.

Freak & Geek said...

hi keropok.

Ariel said...

That is such blatant racism.

S.PLAY said...

Didn't I say these Italians are dirty fuckers!

FIFA - clamp down on it! Put your money where your caviar-filled mouths are!!!

Materazzi must serve as a lesson. Make Mar-goat the first of many sacrificial lambs!

Daniel Franklin Gomez said...

Having heard the suggestion that Materazzi called her a “terrorist whore”, Algerian Malika tells the paper: “No one should be subjected to such foul insults. I’m disgusted.

She goes on: “I have nothing but contempt for Materazzi and, if what he said is true, then I want his balls on a platter.”

Malika may well get her wish when Italy play France in September - unless the game is called off on account of the two countries being at war with one another.

Those rascist gaymen...

Ariel said...

link to the whole article please, daniel and keropok?

K.M.Phang said...

goddamn racist buggers. i'm starting to hate the italians more and more.

Keropok said...

!Freak & Geek: Hullo there... how fares the nation? :)

!Ariel, S.Play, KM Phang: 'Tis a sad state of affairs, mates... we wait in hope for something constructive out of this.

I wonder though if we all would have made a big deal if Materazzi head-butted Zidane instead?

!Daniel: Malika said that???

Daniel Franklin Gomez said...

keropok Probably an extremely exaggerated version by the Daily Mirror....those English always have a knack to concoct something up!

ariel Here you go!

BLaCkFeLiNe said...

Zidane is Zidane, good , bad or ugly..

I would have kicked Materazzi's butt too if he said those things to me..

Zidane is a bad boy and he left bearing that image..can you blame him?

And keropok...I watched the game...hehe..

the kimster said...

So OK, what Zizou did wasnt exactly exemplary. But if I were him, I would have done the same thing.

He was paid a lot of money to play football, and this he did with absolute grace and commitment. His Real Madrid form last season wasn't exactly sterling, but I think that said more about the stupid club than the man.

Lest we forget, Zizou was not paid a lot of money to be insulted and called names. So I won't blame him for what he did.

Sure enough the world will scream "but Zizou, you are a role model!!!"

Come on guys, don't be such wankers and crybabies. Sounds to me like WE are putting a lot of unnecessary blame on Zizou. Or other celebrities for that matter. If Zizou is a crap role model, then the Italian guy is a God?

We are not exactly perfect role models ourselves. In fact, we are rubbish at least half of the time. The only difference is we get to be idiots and make our mistakes away from the glare of public limelight.

jennifer said...

waaa..the best footie blog i've read so far. do you write any sport column in local nwspaper? cos if u didn't maybe u should considering it and save us from reading the outdated copy and paste report/article from soccernet in our daily newspaper. sick.

A Shabby Singh said...

I predict that Zidane will come back and play in an England v The Rest of the World charity match.

Materazzi will be in the RotW squad, but will be left on the becnh by Peckerman.

England will lose 2-1. Frank Lampard will score a fluke goal and Eng stay ahead till the 89th minute when Grosso and Maxi Rodriguez whack two goals in from successive corners.

Keropok said...

!Daniel: You and I will never, ever get tired of whacking the English buggers. Come to think of it, we have foind another kindred spirit in A Shabby Singh, though I'd never, ever trust another one of his predictions! (sorry, Shabby)

!Blackfeline: Materazzi is public enemy number 1 for me and millions of others around the planet. Imagine all the negative energy going his way right now... I'd be suprised if he doesn't break out in boils at least.

!Kimster: True, true... Zizou bleeds red after all (though he never wanted, and now never will join that club)

!Jennifer: Thanks for the compliment. It's about the only thing I'm reasonably competent at, I fear... I suck at everything else :)

Keep coming by.

Keropok said...


Zidane says "I'm sorry, but no regrets."


Well done, Zizou... reading all you have to say I'm sure you can leave with your head held high.

A Shabby Singh said...

Why nobody trust me, I oso dunno...

Anonymous said...


This yis a very very nice blog. Very good editorials.

Soccer Lingam

BLaCkFeLiNe said...

hehehe..is anybody paying for all this stress?


Metria said...

I agree with Soccer Lingam. Keropok writes damn well. He's also lying about sucking at everything else, because he's actually pretty successful at whatever he does. He's just modest (or milking your sympathy).

Keropok, 2 more weeks to go before I can irritate you in person!

Keropok said...

Shabby, you have a reputation, bro. You're the Graham Poll of predictions. 1+1 doesn't necessarily = 2, wot!

Soccer Lingam, Saar,
Are you being who I am thinking you are being? You're a most fashion-a-bull critic. Thanks yaar!

Blackfeline... stress??? payment??? me no follow!

Metria, you bloody liar... When exactly are you down? I got no time to meet up with you la wei... Irritate me some other time.

Mamabola said...

I agree with Metria and Soccer Lingam (I like that nick, Mr Lingam!)...

Keropok very clever fella. Writes so well. I'm sure he does well in many other things also.

What next for this blog, Keropok?

Daniel Franklin Gomez said...

Wow...it's fast becoming the buttering of the keropok blog...with soccer lingam sauce..

Keropok, did you get them free entries to some booze shindig too? LOL!

A Shabby Singh said...

I just wanted the honour of the 50th comment.

Do I have it Keropok?

Anonymous said...

It's all much simpler than the cerebral attempts to explain the momentary lapse of self-control by Zidane. If the referee had the guts to red-card Zambrotta on his horrendous tackle on Viera early in the first half, Italy would have never won the World Cup. The Azzurri played a negative, destructive brand of football, a crossbreed between Herrera's catenaccio and the modern day tactical stratagems. France was the only team that could literally hide the ball from the Brazilians by establishing themselves firmly in the opponents' half for long stretches with Brazil chasing and not being able to touch the ball. How can anybody judge Zidane when other sports are rampant with bench-clearing fights, and sanctioned mayhem resulting in life-threatening injuries? The problem is that FIFA does nothing to protect the players regardless of their proclaimed zero tolerance towards vicious play. The 2006 World Cup winners are in the same category as 2004 European Champions-stifling and unimaginative plodders.