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Zidane and Cultural Conflict in WC Soccer

by David Yeagley · July 10, 2006 · 31 Comments ·

Zinedine Zidane, now notorious for his misbehavior in the 2006 World Cup Soccer final, has undergone some recent media analysis for that behavior, but the sports commentators, as well as sportsment and coaches, have displayed a lack of cultural knowledge, and unfamiliarity with custom. (And it’s not atheletic ‘field’ rage, either.)

First of all, Zidane is not European. He is Algerian. His home village is Aguemoune. His father was born in the Kabylies Mountains of southern Algeria, but moved the family to Marseilles after 1962. Algeria is 99% Arab-Berber, and Muslim in faith. This reflects Middle Eastern culture, not European.


Zinedine Zidane

When Zidane lost his temper in the second overtime play (110th minute), he not only did something he’s done before, but something that is not uncommon in Arabic, or Middle Eastern culture: head-butting. Zidane has words with Italian player Marco Materazzi. This was evident. But when it seemed over, then Zidane seemed to be walking away (Materazzi just behind him, walking), Zidane turned around and butted his head into the chest of Materazzi (who of course fell to the ground in great drama). Zidane was red-carded (ejected from the game), of course, to the great disappointment and disgust of all. (The Paris-based anti-racism group, SOS RACISM tried to accuse Materazzi of calling Zidane “a dirty terrorist,” but that’s rather silly, for that would imply either that Materazzi knew Arabic, or that Zidane knew Italian, or that they both knew French, or English, or whatever. Materazzi flatly denies that he said such a thing.)

But let me offer an account of Zidane’s behavior, in a cultural context. I saw a fight between a North African Arab and another player from the Middle East. It was during a friendly soccer match (in which I was playing). The two never liked each other, and one day they came to blows. Just how they came to blows is precisely the point. The fight doesn’t start right away. There is a tension building, challenging period. The two do not immediatly start swinging fists. They first approach each other, hands almost down. They bring their foreheads into close proximity, even to the point of touching, for extended seconds. Finally, one of them indicates the fight is on by butting heads. The other one has done the same.

It’s is like a fight between two bull elk or bison. When the moment is mutually recognized, the fight begins. Not a second before.

I’m saying that the account for Zidane’s behavior probably lies in this man-to-man custom in the Middle Eastern world. It’s a masculline etiquette, if you please. However, Zidane’s behavior was clearly out of line even in that realm. And Materazzi probably hadn’t the faintest idea of what was happening. He wasn’t even looking in Zidane’s direction when it happened. Why should he expect such a thing? He is European. He is Italian, not Arabic.

In the Arab world ego levels are clearly marked and taken very seriously. Even in conversation, the Arab is quick to recognize a challenge, and responds with complete devotion. Nevertheless, such ego custom is to be left off the soccer field. For this breach of trust, Zidane, who promises to talk about the incident in the future, is nevertheless fallen from grace. And he cannot recover. Though he’s is still a hero in his home village, and though he was awarded the Golden Ball for best player in the entire World Cup tournament of 2006, he is a low man.

Soccer is a rather naked sport. The players are not wearing protective equipment. They have to respect each other, or mayhem breaks out immediately. Zidane should be stripped of all his honors. Of course, FIFA is a liberal institution, as most rule-making agencies are. They obviously forgive Zidane. And FIFA continues to bring weakness to the sport, proffering more and more chances to win, like two over time periods, and then goalie shoot-outs. This is all repulsive to the true sportsman. If you can’t win in 90 minutes of play time, you lose. I’ve commented on this elsewhere. Suffice it to say that soccer cannot endure such liberalism. The players quit 65 minutes into the regulation 90. Don’t make the effort to win, knowing there are ample chances to win later.

FIFA forgives Zidane. I don’t. Consequences are vital. Without them, all is diluted to meaningless. This is the liberal social trend, of course, to dispense with consequences. It doesn’t show how soccer explains the world, but it shows how a liberal, Leftist world has affected soccer.

Posted by David Yeagley · July 10, 2006 · 8:06 pm CT · ·

Tags: Bad Eagle Journal




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31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kidist // Jul 11, 2006 at 7:48 am   

    Yes, Zidane’s Ishmael’s influence won over, in the end. It is very sad. I saw how he planted that penalty goal, and it was genius.

    Also, that little Italian guy has to take the blame. He tainted the tournament as much as Zidane did, if what he taunted Zidane with is true.

    Imagine a football or baseball player calling the family member of the an opposing team player something profoundly inexcusable. No head-butting, but I’m sure fists would be flying.

    The question is: has international sports become too loaded for it to proceed in “good spirit”? Maybe it has. In tormented times, racism is inevitable.

  • 2 Tamara // Jul 11, 2006 at 10:02 am   

    No, I don’t think “that little Italian guy” (whatever that means) should take any blame. What Zidane did was wrong, regardless of what Materazzi may have said. And it’s an unfortunate end to what has been a remarkable soccer career.

    The cultural analysis is quite interesting – certainly lends a whole new dimension to the incident.

  • 3 Kidist // Jul 11, 2006 at 10:28 am   

    Yes, difficult times.

    If someone called your mother the “usual”, in your office where it is uncalled for, what would you do? What should that person do? Even more pertinent, what would you feel?

    It takes two to tango.

    Of course, Zidane received what he deserved. No question about that.

    Still, if the story is true, I feel sorry for him.

  • 4 Kidist // Jul 11, 2006 at 10:35 am   

    Again, if the story is true ——

    I should also add that these days where family and pride and all those old fashioned honorable things are at stake, perhaps Zidane’s reaction is in fact the honorable one.

    You defend what is close to you.

    Maybe that is what we can learn from these “Arab terrorists”. There is nothing PC about them.

    I stand by my comment about the little Italian guy, who didn’t have the gall to fight a real fight, but jabbed it where it hurt expecting no repercussion. I hope they dig this story out to it logical conclusion – i.e. Italian guy out too.

  • 5 frank // Jul 11, 2006 at 10:47 am   

    you have forgotten to mention that zidane played in italy for juventus(speaks fluently in spanish,italian,arabic), and french.both men played at the same time in the italian league from 1998-2001. Their’s is some history !!!!!

  • 6 Sami // Jul 11, 2006 at 11:04 am   

    You can not forgive Zidane. That is interesting because that tells me one thing, you never made a mistake in your life.

  • 7 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 11:41 am   

    Sami, you tell me then that you are not a sportsman. That’s all.

  • 8 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 11:44 am   

    Frank, you are quite right about all that. (Though I will check out the language bit. I suspected it was true anyway. They understood each other.) The pitfalls of “international” national teams. Did you notice that the Italian team was “Italian?” The “French” team is anything but “French.”

  • 9 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 11:46 am   

    Kidist, this is about sportsmanship, not personal hang ups. Zidane FAILED at sportsmanship. He has FAILED OFTEN. No, he is not the only one, of course.

    But, unfortunately for him, his maniacal ego mechanism over-rode all other considerations. This is a low, self-ish man, and could never be depended upon except for doing just what he did.

    If you want to say he has the right loyalties, fine.

    What I said is still true, however. He can only be relied on for THOSE loyalites, nothing else, ever.

  • 10 Tamara // Jul 11, 2006 at 12:31 pm   

    Yes, Zidane is selfish. Not to mention arrogant.

  • 11 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 1:44 pm   

    I don’t think it was a case of family values. We could say terrorism is “family values,” too–the large Arabic Islamic family values.

    It’s a case of male egotism, and the immaturity occasionally concomitant.

    That’s not the same as family values, in my opinion.

    Zidane is a hot-heat, big time. Apparently always has been. It’s HIM, not family values, or any other kind of values, save his own egotism.

  • 12 Bodvar // Jul 11, 2006 at 2:18 pm   

    I wonder at this thread.

    It may be illustrative of the decline of civility in society, etc., but it’s all nothing more than a celebrity all caught up in his ability to play a childrens game. Put him right up there with celebrities who play-act for a living.

    In the end, remember that it’s soccer. Who cares?

    That, and he’s playing for France, in which case, who REALLY cares?

    – B

  • 13 pinetree // Jul 11, 2006 at 5:17 pm   

    Soccer “hooligans” on the field and in the stands.

    Which one is the “egg” , and which one is the “layer” .

    Makes me want to be careful passing a car with a soccer-ball bumper sticker.

    Maybe… “It’s a soccer thing — you wouldn’t understand”.

    Don’t have to , bad behavior is wrong , even when it gets publicity and cheers .

    Hand them pies . This is the “entry-level” weapon of the left … once words and logic ,fall (like sportsmanship , respect , and honor) , from their playbook.

    Why , i nearly called every one of them a bunch of left-winged cheap-shot chickens !

    How unlike yours-truly!

    Hmmm ….is it true the “game” began by kicking the skulls of beheaded foes back and forth on the battlefield?

    as ever , curiously enough because i’m no fan ..pinetree

  • 14 Kidist // Jul 11, 2006 at 5:21 pm   

    This is very interesting. A player can make obvious insulting and offensive remarks to deliberately incite an opposing player into retaliatory and negative action, and no-one blinks an eye over this!!!

    Where is Materazzi’s sportsmanship? Unbelievable! I’m saying both are guilty, although Materazzi should take the bigger punishment for incitement – but both get the highest, i.e. red cards, equal thus in lack of sportsmanship.

    We have to be fair, even to our enemies!

    Secondly, of course Zidane is a hot head, but so are the Germans (did you see the Italy-German match, with the most penalties I’ve ever seen coming from the German side? They were pummelling the poor Italians. I kept saying, why don’t the Italians retaliate? Well, as this game showed, they seem to prefer the devious under-handed method instead. They were like little angels during the Germany game, which I presume they acted thusly knowing the wrath of the Germans.

    And, it looked like Zidane changed his mind! went back and butted the Italian. I’m sure he realized he could live with not defending himself, but not his own mother or sister or whomever was insulted. It was not about ego.

    Finally, of course all things give us prescriptions for life and behavior. Yes, sports is sports, but if that is all it is, why do you keep calling the French team “French”. All these subtleties are important.

    Arab Muslim terrorists seem to think it is important to promulgate their religion through offensive (battle) action. Why are American, French, German, Ethiopian etc… Christians not compelled with equal fervor to at least defend theirs? Zidane just gave us a microcosm of what is important to him. The French showed us all by giving us a “French” team.

  • 15 Kidist // Jul 11, 2006 at 5:52 pm   

    OK, this whole incident must have touched a nerve (mine :) ). Anyway, the very fact that Materazzi knew which nerve (of Zidane’s this time) to touch means that that very same thing would get at his too.

    I cannot imagine a say Swiss player taunting an Arab with lewd remarks about his mother.

    But, we all know what Momma’s boys those Italians are (please just laugh a little here!)

  • 16 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 5:53 pm   

    KIDIST: “A player can make obvious insulting and offensive remarks to deliberately incite an opposing player into retaliatory and negative action..”

    You seem terribly sure Materazzi was a culprit. Are you quite sure he said what you have presumed he said? I have seen no evidence, anywhere, yet. If you’re privy, let us in on it!

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. That’s what I was taught. Perhaps such a position is foreign to the world.

    People insulted me and my mother, the moment she died, Kidist. They said I wasn’t her son! Indians said this. A Kiowa said it, and told everyone Comanches told it to her.

    This was the most low down thing I have ever experienced in my life.

    But words can never hurt me. (How do you head-butt a female paraplegic in a wheelchair?)

    I’m sorry, but no excuses for Zidane. Only “explanations.”

  • 17 The Turtle // Jul 11, 2006 at 6:09 pm   

    So if a Commanche said some insults about another Commanche’s mother, sister, girl cousin, what was said wouldn’t incite a fight between the families? Or better yet, if insults were thrown by a non-Commanche physicalness wouldn’t be thrown around and that there would be a sit down chat? Many wars were started with just simple words.

  • 18 cvc // Jul 11, 2006 at 6:21 pm   

    that italian guy shoud take the blame but instead he says he doesnt know anything about what he said to zidane during interviews. the next day he says he said something but not “dirty terrorist, he said he is a child who does not know what that means. he obvously said something very offensive and is responding like a two year old. remember when you were in kindergarten and you called someone and idiot and the teacher catches you? hes like that “i didnt call him an idiot i called him a….uhhhh. a schmidiot!” mazzerazi can at least take responsibilty for his actions and not hide away like a child. he a fag.

  • 19 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 6:22 pm   

    I’d like to think I’ve advance a little, culturally. (Not necessarily emotionally…)

    If people, any people, prefer to be low down, that’s their privilege. I don’t have to acknowlege their low downness. It just means more than likely that we can’t do business.

    Taking words so seriously is an Arab, Middle Eastern custom. It represents the lowest form of communication and egotism, frankly. The Arab tack is a universal one, I realize. I think the Arab personality is an archetype of somekind.

    I wrote an essay about this for Persian Heritage Magazine. Persian World Personality. There are three archetypal personalities: Jewish, Persian, and Arab. Most of us are Arab, most of the time, though we have occasional moments of Persianisms, and rare moments of Jewish consciousness.

    For most of us, the best we can hope for is Persian objectivity. Most of the time, as I said, we’re in the Arab mode of ego to ego wrestling. Much nonsense. Much waste.

  • 20 Grant // Jul 11, 2006 at 7:30 pm   

    Advanced or assimilated and acculturated?

  • 21 Kidist // Jul 11, 2006 at 7:46 pm   

    There you go again about the Persians. Yes, I agree, they’re gold compared to the Arabs, but, remember, they were too arrogant to accept Christianity — after the great Cyrus, what a let down, WHAT A LET DOWN. Pure arrogance.

    As for Zidane:

    The whole internet is abuzz about his words. You have often made conclusions based on a “calculated intuition”. That is what I’m doing here, as well as lip-readers’ renditions from various TV networks, and a kind of denial-through-absurd-innocence by the Italian himself which is now an admission. Your own blog even makes some attestation to this.

    Firstly on purely sport-related rules set down by FIFA:

    FIFA LAWS OF THE GAME
    - Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct
    - Sending Off Offences

    A player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits any of the following seven offences:

    1. is guilty of serious foul play
    2. is guilty of violent conduct
    3. spits at an opponent or any other person
    4. denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)
    5. denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick
    6. uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures*
    7. receives a second caution in the same match

    * no specification about type of offensive or abusive language — it could be personal or not.

    Secondly, you seem to be using this situation to pummel the Arabs, yourself. This is racist, as in wishing another human being harm. It no longer enters the category of self-defence, or self-preservation. Your racial arguments really are out of place here. The Arab’s personality is irrelevant to the type of attack that Arab received.

    Regarding your mother’s incident, I remember you trying to set up a law suite as a retaliatory response to those “words”. Well, you were not in the heat of a world-televised sports event. You could cool off behind the computer, writing about it to let off steam, or by a good night’s sleep.

    In any case, mother or no mother, like I intuitively felt, insults on the volatile sports field is tantamount to a red card.

    Now, lets start talking about multi-culti “national” sports teams. But then, what would a pure Italian team do when faced with a pure Rwanda Bantu team?

    Hmmmm.

    The saga will continue.

  • 22 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 9:02 pm   

    My, my. What a train of thought here.

    For Grant: I mean most definitely, “advanced.” If you prefer a dog’s mouth, that it your choice. I don’t value it. If you do, I’d say that’s low. If you consider that an insult, then I’m right. If you don’t, I’m simply mistaken.

  • 23 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 9:07 pm   

    KIDIST: “Secondly, you seem to be using this situation to pummel the Arabs, yourself. This is racist, as in wishing another human being harm. It no longer enters the category of self-defence, or self-preservation. Your racial arguments really are out of place here. The Arab’s personality is irrelevant to the type of attack that Arab received.”

    1)How do you figure? I just said most of us are Arab, most of the time.

    2)A personal heated remark on a soccer field is not in the same category as a libelous, published statement. There is in fact no comparison.

    3) You must really be taken by Zidane! That’s okay. I was too. In fact, I think this is the problem. He’s too cool, too good looking, too talented, and just too grand to have behaved like a fool. It was too great a fall. There is no justification. It is odious.

    He should apologize to the world, and to the game, and to all the young people of the world.
    He should NOT justify himself. He will bring nothing but more evil into the world. He should ask the world for forgiveness. This is the only honorable thing to do.

    Forget about Materazzi. This is about Zidane. Is Zidane so weak as to let another man control his behavior?

  • 24 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 9:10 pm   

    My position is the same for Indian mascots. That Indians should be offended by the use of Indian names and monikers is WEAKNESS. If your “self-esteem” is based on what other call you, or what they think of you, then you are a SLAVE.

    This is how liberals have taught American blacks to think. And this weakness has spread throughout the culture.

    Strong people are not offended by words.

    Kidist, again, the matter of vile falsehood being PUBLISHED is a different matter altogether. It potentially affects one’s JOB. One is obligated to take action.

    Yes, it hurts to see one’s own people acting like the lowest of the low. That I freely admit.

  • 25 Kidist // Jul 11, 2006 at 9:43 pm   

    That’s really not fair. You have reduced my whole argument into some kind of adulation of an athlete. I didn’t even know about Zidane until a day or so before the matches. Of course this is about Zidane AND Materazzi.

    The only reason I keep repeating this is that no-one seems to understand this. I think it might be for subliminal racist reasons…

    Abusive or insulting comments during an international game has merited the attention of FIFA naming it a potential red-carding event.

    “World” sports events will only get more difficult – especially the multi-culti ones like soccer. Maybe this is the where the problem lies.

    Yes, you may have said we’re all Arab most of the time. But that was after you made specifically directed comments about one Arab.

    And I just disagreed with your analogy of Persians, who to me have disappointed their leader Cyrus. Whatever they do now has to be of a profoundly expiatory nature. I don’t see any of them rushing over to do that. That is not objectivity.

    Words matter — ask Shakespeare, or even any preacher on a Sunday pulpit.

    But, I’m sure Zidane will get over his, like we all do.

  • 26 Kidist // Jul 11, 2006 at 9:56 pm   

    Ugh, I hate to go on and on and on. But, as a final farewell…

    Zidane’s “job” was affected to. His retaliation was recorded on TV after the sly Italian made his move.

    So, you’re not offended/affected if called a “dirty Indian?” (Self-esteem is a whole other issue.)

    I don’t believe it.

  • 27 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 10:02 pm   

    Kidist, I honestly thought Zidane was one of the coolest characters I’d ever seen in sports. That was before I discovered his “character.” He has a thing for punching people out. That is NOT cool. Lots of soccer players are hot heads, true.

    By the way did you see this?

    Berlin World Cup coordinater shoots himself. It’s a disappearing Yahoo/AP link, so have a look quickly. I’m sure it’s not related, but, just a news item…

    The macho think for Zidane to do would be to make formal apologies. That’s the LEAST he can do, but also about ALL he can do right now.

    This would also place him above Materazzi. Sometimes, the best ego move is to humble yourself. Not something I’ve seen Arabs to a whole lot of.

    However, if you show the slighest affection or respect for them, they immediately return it whole heartedly. Very tightly wound up they are. Like a mirror, it seems.

    No, I don’t consider myself racist. Others do. I simply can’t let others decide for me what I am. I try to allow for their view, however, in my self-assessments.

  • 28 David Yeagley // Jul 11, 2006 at 10:07 pm   

    Yeah, time to retire for the night.

    Zidane RETIRED after the game. No effect on his job. And he still got the Golden Ball award. It was just crushingly disappointing for things to end the way they did for him. A real man takes all the blame for his own actions. That is critical in machoism.

    He could humble himself, and the world would be better off.

    He needs to be concerned about himself, not Materazzi.

    (Don’t we love being a armchair coaches, referees, and judges?! Ha, ha! Well, I seem to love. No aspersions on you, Kid!)

  • 29 Kidist // Jul 11, 2006 at 10:17 pm   

    No aspersions taken. :)

    Yep, these World Cups are dangerously volatile!!

  • 30 David Yeagley // Jul 12, 2006 at 10:17 am   

    We’re probably going to have to take this all to the BadEagle sports forum. The story is ongoing.

    Look at this: Italian Coach Dino Zoff Resigns. Ah, the political intrigue of this game, soccer. Unbelievable.

  • 31 frank // Jul 12, 2006 at 12:13 pm   

    i can not believe that david said the italians were italian,the french hardly a french.are you being hypocrite about the americans that they are hardly american when they paly international or olympic basketball.you should applaud the french’s for their assimilation .are you saying they were mostly black.you should know that american artist(jazz,novelist,opera …) went to frnace to express their craft.

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