Football lovers watching the Italy-France World Cup final in Berlin on July 9, 2006, were witness to a sad spectacle, when Frenchman Zinedine Zidane forcefully rammed his head on Italian Marco Materazzi’s chest, felling him on the ground. Zidane was promptly red-carded and his football career came to a sour end. The match went to penalty shoot-out with scores level 1-1 after extra time. It appeared that Gods meted out a punishment to France for Zidane’s sordid act and Italy emerged the winner. Fans coming out of football stadium that night, talked more of Zidane’s head-butt than the newly crowned World Cup champions.
In seven years since then, Zinedine Zidane’s infamous act has been played over a million times in the media. The moment of madness inspired Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed to create a 16 feet tall bronze sculpture, which was unveiled just outside the Pompidou art museum in Paris. With Qatar Museums Authority buying the Abdessemed Bronze, aptly named, “Coup de Tete”, the sculpture is now shifted and installed at Doha Corniche, a waterfront promenade extending several kilometers along the Doha Bay, a prominent tourist spot of Doha, the capital of Qatar. This is Qatar’s celebratory gesture of announcing to the world that Doha will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
But the legendary footballer would not have wished to be remembered just for the ugly incident involving him. Zidane was too good to be leaving the game in such fashion. In all fairness, he didn’t have the roguish streak either. He made his professional entry to football, joining Cannes at age 16, in a Ligue1 match against Nantes. In his first full season with them, he helped Cannes qualify for UEFA cup for the first time and finish 4th in the league. In 1992-93, Zidane was transferred to Bordeaux and played a lead role in the club winning the Interoto Cup in 1995. By this time, Zidane was already sporting France’s national colours, graduating from under-17, under-18 and under-21 national teams in previous years. In his debut match for France, in August 1994, a friendly against Czech Republic, Zidane scored twice, when France trailed 0-2, leveling the scores 2-2.
Zidane moved to UEFA League winners, Juventus in 1996 for a fee of £3.2 million and helped Juventus win the 1996-97 Serie A and intercontinental Cup in 1996. In the next season, Zidane scored 7 goals. Juventus won the 1997-98 Serie A as well. Incidentally, in 2000-2001 Serie A, Juventus were eliminated at group stage, when Zidane was banned for head-butting an opponent. Regardless, Zidane was named Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year for the Second time.
In 2001, Zidane joined Real Madrid for four years at a world-record fee of €75 million. He scored the match winner in 2002 UEFA Champions League Final which Real won 2-1, against Bayer Leverkusen. Real also won 2002-03 La Liga, helped by Zidane, who was named FIFA Player of the year for third time. In UEFA’s Golden Jubilee Poll of 2004, Zidane had most fan votes, to be named as best European footballer of the past 50 years.
France’s 1998 World Cup victory brought instant fame to Zidane, his first World Cup, staged in France. Despite being red-carded in the second match against Saudi Arabia, Zidane played the quarterfinals against Italy and semifinals against Croatia. The quarterfinal was decided on penalties; while it was a 2-1 win against Croatia in the semis. Zidane had not netted any goals until the final, but his role in the team was crucial as a playmaker. France faced defending champions Brazil in the final. Zidane scored twice in the final and France won 3-0, their first ever World Cup. France’s World Cup victory was made sweeter by a win in Euro 2000 final as well.
Just before World Cup 2002, Zidane suffered a thigh injury and his absence resulted in France’s elimination in the group stage itself. In Euro 2004, France was knocked out in quarter finals by Greece. After this loss, Zidane announced his retirement from international football.
France found it difficult to qualify for 2006 World Cup, since many players had announced their retirements. Zidane was forced out of retirement and made the team captain. Despite slow start, France kept winning its matches. In the semifinal, Zidane’s penalty kick helped France to another major final. However, everyone knows what happened in that fateful final.