kottke.org posts about 2006 World Cup
A 15-foot-tall statue of Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi by sculptor Adel Abdessemed has been placed in the courtyard of the Pompidou Center in Paris.
The statue, entitled "Headbutt," is by the Algerian sculptor Adel Abdessemed, and coincides with an exhibition of his work in the museum. "This statue goes against the tradition of making statues to honor victories," said Phillipe Alain Michaud, who directed the exhibition. "It is an ode to defeat... Zidane's downward glance recalls that of Adam, chased from paradise."
But as Michaud knows, and surely as Abdessemed intends, it is both not so simple and much simpler. It is an ode to more than defeat; but it's also a representation of very basic feelings complicated by literary analogy. The Headbutt was full of anger, stupidity, and recklessness, but beneath them lay a damaged sense of honor. This makes it hard for even the calmest football fan to wholly begrudge Zidane his actions.
Nine months after the World Cup, Germany is experiencing a baby boom, which is good news because Germany's birth rate is among the lowest in the world.
Yet another take on the Zidane headbutt, this time from Dany Laferriere (translated by Rana Dasgupta). "I don't believe that the Italian player said to him anything that he couldn't stand to hear. He simply felt that this was the moment. His last match, the finale of the World Cup, at the very end. It was now or never. Otherwise, he had sold himself for good."
Zidane apologized for the headbutt incident, but doesn't regret his actions. He said Materazzi insulted his family, "both his mother and sister".
In an interesting twist, those watching the World Cup Final in the stadium didn't see Zidane headbutt Materazzi: "As a result, tens of thousands of spectators, those actually watching the game in real life, had to resort to calling or texting friends, often in faraway places like the United States or Japan, to find out what was happening in Berlin. Why was Zidane, the resurgent French hero, walking with a bowed head from the field?"
The Daily Mail, with corroboration from the Times, has some information on what Marco Materazzi said to Zinedine Zidane to provoke the latter's career ending headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final (more info on that here). They both hired lip readers to decipher Materazzi's dialogue before the incident and this is allegedly what he said (translated from the Italian):
Hold on, wait, that one's not for a nigger like you.
We all know you are the son of a terrorist whore.
So just fuck off.
So it might be fair to say that Materazzi got what he deserved, as did Zidane when he got sent off. Not that two wrongs make a right. Even so, I agree with these thoughts from That's How It Happened:
[Zidane's] willingness to headbutt Materazzi makes him more of a hero, not less. Admittedly, since France went on to lose, he's something of a tragic hero, but a hero none-the-less. If someone insulted my race, or my religion (if I had one), I wish I'd be as ready to attack them, no matter what the circumstances. Zidane's action highlights for the world the fact that the racial unity of France is more important than winning the World Cup.
If the lip reader is correct in what Materazzi said, I may like Zidane even more than I did before the match. (via wikipedia)
Update: Eurosport has a statement from Materazzi:
I held his shirt for a few seconds only, he turned to me, looked at me from top to bottom with utmost arrogance (and said): "if you really want my shirt, I'll give it to you afterwards". I answered him with an insult.
Update: Several UK newspapers enlisted lip readers to determine what Materazzi said and ended up with many different accounts. Lip reading + language translation = unreliable. (thx, luke)
Zidane won the Golden Ball award, awarded by journalists to the best player of the tournament. Most of the voting for the award came before halftime of the final. Miroslav Klose's five goals gave him the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer.
Zidane's agent says Zidane "told me Materazzi said something very serious to him but he wouldn't tell me what". "Zinedine didn't want to talk about it but it will all come out in the next week. He was very disappointed and sad. He didn't want it to end this way."
I'm rooting for France today, but I feel that Italy has the best chance of winning. But we shall see. Allez!
Update: I'm stunned. Not so much about the loss, but Zidane...what was that? That headbutt is one of the craziest things I've ever seen in sports.
Update: Video of the headbutt. There's some speculation that Materazzi twisted Zidane's nipple...or if not, I wonder what he said that could have riled the Frenchman so?
Update: Ok, here's a video of the whole exchange. No twisting that I can see...Materazzi obviously said something. With all his experience, hasn't Zidane heard it all before?
Update: Video of some of Materazzi's dirty plays.
Update: From a 2004 profile of Zidane in the Guardian:
One of the theories about Zidane as a player is that he is driven by an inner rage. His football is elegant and masterful, charged with technique and vision. But he can still erupt into shocking violence that is as sudden as it is inexplicable. The most famous examples of this include head butting Jochen Kientz of Hamburg during a Champions League match, when he was at Juventus in 2000 (an action that cost him a five match suspension) and his stomping on the hapless Faoud Amin of Saudi Arabia during the 1998 World Cup finals (this latter action was, strangely enough, widely applauded in the Berber community as Zidane's revenge on hated Arab 'extremists').
Update: More detail on some of Zidane's past misdeeds. (thx, daniel)
Update: Zidane's agent says Zidane "told me Materazzi said something very serious to him but he wouldn't tell me what". "Zinedine didn't want to talk about it but it will all come out in the next week. He was very disappointed and sad. He didn't want it to end this way."
Update: Zidane's headbutt, now in video game format.
Update: With the help of lip readers, two UK newspapers have deciphered what Materazzi alledgedly said to Zidane to set him off.
Not to go on and on about it like the stupid announcers on American TV, but this passage from Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker piece (sadly not online), may explain why the American team did so poorly in the World Cup:
Every kid in the American suburbs, it seems, owns a pair of shin guards. Soccer accords nicely with baby-boomer parents' notions about sports: every kid gets to play, no one stands out too much, there's plenty of running and trophies for all. If [John Robert's] children are typical, they will play neighborhood soccer for a few years, with enthusiastic but inexperienced parent coaches, and then wander away from the game by adolescence. Great high-school athletes tend to migrate to football and basketball, where they can play in front of big crowds and perhaps qualify for college scholarships. Soccer in the suburbs serves mostly as a bridge between Barney and Nintendo; it's a pleasant diversion, not a means of developing brutes like Jan Koller, to say nothing of the magicians who stock the Brazilian team.
This dovetails nicely with what my friend David wrote during a discussion about the disappearance of the US from the World Cup:
Our best athletes go to basketball, football, and baseball, roughly in that order. Soccer gets the dregs, sadly. Don't you think Terrell Owens would be a better striker than Landon Donovan? Even a 50-year-old Darrel Green might be faster than the fastest player on the US Soccer team, and so on.
We know these guys are smart players, and they may have the same instincts that even the Brazilians and Ecuadorians do. But they're just not nearly as good. Watching Brazil decimate Japan yesterday, even briefly, it was obvious how much stronger they were than the US team.
Over IM just now, David and I were musing about Allen Iverson's possible greatness as a soccer player; so creative, quick, and fearless. I bet if some the NBA's best players grew up playing soccer the way they played basketball, the US would have a pretty great team.
Why diving makes soccer great. What a steaming pile of crap.
The NY Times World Cup Blog takes ABC/ESPN to task for the universally crappy TV coverage of the World Cup so far, and then extends that argument to a broader condemnation of American sportscasting. Hear, hear. Balboa just straight up sucks and the graphics that cover the action during the game (including ESPN's scrolling news alerts at the bottom of the screen) are viewer-hostile and make me want to throw my TV across the room. (via maciej)
Where do the Brazilian soccer players get their names? I'm posting this instead of watching the rest of the US/Czech match because the US is playing like a high school team.
World Cup 2006 starts today! Here again for your viewing pleasure is the complete US TV schedule. Games televised today: Germany v. Costa Rica and Poland v. Ecuador.
Mike Monteiro on why you shouldn't unilaterally call professional athletes a bunch of jackasses just because they play sports. While FIFA's preemptive cease and desist was stupid, the anti-sports stuff in the Boing Boing post Mike references was surprisingly closed-minded and disappointing, considering the source.
The World Bank has a comprehensive package on World Cup 2006 and its relation to economics, including an economic analysis of who's gonna win and how the Cup influences economies in the winning/losing countries.
Update: Goldman Sachs has a 50+ page report on World Cup 2006 and economics [PDF link] as well. (thx, beau)
World Cup fever, who has it? World Cup Blog has it; they've got a blogger covering each team in the Cup and even one covering just the referees.