Thursday, July 13, 2006

Just Let Zidane Be

The Richard Cohen article, Camus and Zidane, comes closest to expressing what I feel about Zidane head butting Materazzi during the dying minutes of the 2006 World Cup Final.

The author draws a parallel between Meursault, the character in Albert Camus' The Stranger and Zidane:
In "The Stranger," the existentialist novel by Albert Camus [which, I must confess, I have not read, but have every intention of doing so now] an alienated French-Algerian man, Meursault, kills an Arab on the beach in the glare of the sunlight. It is a senseless act, as senseless as the way he fires one deadly shot, and then four more into the prone body.

Zin├ędine Zidane, a Frenchman born to Algerian parents in Marseille, did not kill anyone in the glare of the floodlights of Berlin's Olympic Stadium. His senseless act, beneath the gaze of a billion people, merely knocked an Italian off his feet. All that Zidane killed was a certain narrative of his life.
The part that is interesting to me is this:
Camus was averse to judgment. Acts themselves, explicable or not, were all that we could know existed. Meursault felt nothing at his mother's funeral and he killed the Arab in the stunning sunlight. We may wish that the story had been otherwise, as we may wish that love not be close to hate, but the story was what it was. Zidane, it seems, lost his head. Or perhaps he kept his head and chose to write a coda to his story that would have all the complexity of a great novel. Perhaps he sought an almost unseen act of anger that would prompt a global, virtual argument about the merits or demerits of a gesture without sense.

I do not know. Nor do I believe we will ever know. Whatever comes out will remain inconsequential beside the act itself, this violence in a 21st-century glare, this strange and stimulating ending.
Many words have been written online and in print, many words have been said on television programs dissecting Zidane's interaction with Materazzi, most of them questioning Zidane's wisdom in doing what he did ten minutes from the end of a glorious career in football.

Should he have done it? Should he not have shrugged it (whatever that insult was that Materazzi directed at Zidane) off? Insults are a part of the game, every game. The game was the final of the World Cup. France had gotten into the final after a rather shaky start. Zidane threw away a golden opportunity to win the cup for France by eliciting the red card and being shown the sidelines. If Zidane had been around for the shoot-out, France had a very good chance of winning. And on and on and on.

Quite frankly I don't understand what the fuss is all about. Zidane and Materazzi had a confrontation, Zidane reacted to the situation as he saw fit, he turned around and deposited his pate into Materazzi's gut. Subsequently, the referee presented Zidane with a red card (whether he should or shouldn't have is quite another matter) and off went Zidane.

End of story. It is what it is.

Zidane obviously reacted the way he did because he thought that that was the appropriate reaction. And for that, because the refree felt it was a foul, Zidane got the punishment he deserved as per the rules of the game. What Materazzi might have said and whether it merited the kind of reaction it got from Zidane are irrelevant. Zidane has gone on to say that he apologized to his teammates and his coach, but that he regretted nothing. Good for him.

As you peel the layers of the man's identity - footballer, Frenchman, sports icon, second-generation immigrant, team player - at the base of it all is a human being, with all of the attendant frailties. Let's expect a great game from a great footballer, but let's not expect the man to be anything more or less than a human being.


Nithya said...

Very well said, Sujatha.

Anonymous said...

That last line more or less summed up the whole issue. Besides, who in the right mind would keep quiet about expletives concerning siblings & parents? Very nicely written, Sujatha!

Anonymous said...

Live and let live.

On a lighter vein
knowledgable sources close to the players have revealed on the internet that what Matarazzi actually said to Zidane was
"Bhayya hum Chlormint kyon khate hain ?"

remainconnected said...

Though I don't have any 100% fool-proof info or records, all my inputs are from
what I have read in newspapers and online news sites.

Well,when you are playing in front of a world audience,then Zidane shouldn't have headbutted him in the true spirit of the game.But then if the remark was something personal,highly pinching and insulting,then what Zidane did was an uncontrollable attack.

Sujatha,in the concluding lines,you have stated it all: but let's not expect the man to be anything more or less than a human being.

Also that Italian dude is such an actor, that butt wasn't that hard.Infact in the practise sessions they encounter more powerful blows.

Anonymous said...

Suppose I don't like your blog, can I drive a knife through your heart? (Of course, I do like your blog. And in any case, I am not brave enough. But I digress.)

The point about Zidane not keeping his head boils down the man not putting the incident in perspective. Don't tell me that Zizou has not heard insults in the past. He might have heard worse. The way to answer Materazzi would have been to slot home a penalty past Buffon and hold aloft the trophy. Zidane, in failing, for a previous moment, to think in a utilitarian fashion, cost himself his reputation.

If you disagree, stay on guard ;)

Sujatha Bagal said...

Nithya, welcome to my blog. Thanks!

Ravi, thanks!

Footballer, that is precisely it - live and let live. I was considering that for my title. :)

Tanay, I agree, that was too much of a drama for the head butt. :)

Vijay, that is precisely my point. If you don't like my blog, you can do whatever you please, and if what you do is unlawful, then you face the consequences. Zidane did not like what Materazzi said or did, he head butted him, it was unlawful according to the rules of the game, he faced the consequences (he recieved the card and he had to leave the game).

Everything else is irrelevant.

The Oracle said...

Zidane headbutted Matterazzi out of pride. Mersault killed the Arab because he was hot and confused. In this way the acts are incomparable.

Zidane, so far as this incident is concerned, is but a vain reflection of the original.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Oracle, seeing as I have not read that book, I'll take your word for it. What attracted me to the article was the sense it gave me that all we could know about this incident is what occurred in front of everyone's eyes. (And as I've said the incident occurred in a game, the action was deemed to be a foul and the perpetrators were punished.) The whys and wherefores, which all the media and talking heads seemed intent on dissecting and analyzing, are outside the realm of our knowledge and so it seemed silly to me that people were judging what Zidane had done.

The Oracle said...

Yes, I agree. I think that the comparison with The Outsider is very interesting, especially because it highlights our obsession with judging people and events about which we know very little.

I too think that this event should be seen merely as a man headbutting another man. My point is simply that I don't believe that Zidane's act is as interesting as Mersault's (although our response to it definitely is). When Materazzi insulted Zidane's mother, Zidane's impulse was to defend his mother's honour. This is a fairly routine impulse. But when Mersault shot the Arab, he wasn't thinking about honour, he was thinking about being too hot and wanting to sit next to a cold spring. I find this the ultimate in senseless acts - killing a man because you are too hot! This is why I say that Zidane's act is but a vain reflection of Mersault's - Zidane's headbutt is not truly senseless, as it is an act of defence. This leads me to think that Zidane is not really an 'outsider' (presumably he would cry at his mother's funeral).

Anyway, none of this goes against your point that the public response to 'the headbutt' has been out of all proportion. But then again, the same can be said about the public's interest in football as a whole, which is merely a bunch of men kicking a ball around a field.

Thanks for the discussion - I certainly agree with what you have said about leaving Zidane alone.

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