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.
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.