Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Head Butt Around the World

(or when you care enough to send the very best)

I don't watch football and I didn't watch it this weekend (not having access to the channel probably had something to do with it. If I can't buy it in the medina, I don't see it). In truth, few North Americans actually watch football (aka soccer) and if they tell you that they do, they are likely lying to your face. And those that really do are either of European descent, got laid for the first time during their post high school tour of the Continent, or are sports freaks - all of whom you can pretty much dismiss as the fringe element.

But world tournaments have a way of bringing the lost lambs back into the fold, beguiling the uninitiated with its bits of arcana & lore (i.e., translated into sanctioned violence & beer), and secret passwords and language (little gems like "50/50 balls"). I myself have been known to watch curling during certain briars and that is a fact that I have kept hidden for years. Certainly, golf cannot be far behind. And a retirement home for the mentally feeble. So, I confess that I was rather taken aback when Mr. Cat in Rabat admitted to ditching work (not shocked at that) to go watch the games. This spawned a conversation which went like this .... how many players do you actually know? By name?
Between the 2 of us we came up with 4:
  • Pelé
  • Ronaldo
  • Zinédine Zidane
  • Thierry Henry
  • David Beckham
Now if that isn't pathetic, I don't know what is. I strongly suspect that, in the long history of football, there have been a few more famous names. I'll have to do a bit of research between now and 2010.

Now living in part of the world (i.e., the parts that don't include North America, the Arctic Circle and possibly Antarctica) that goes apeshit over football, the last few weeks have been somewhat of a learning experience for me. The most valuable lesson I learned was that if men are watching a television screen on which there are men in shorts and a soccer ball, they will ignore the very real women who walk by. This is an exciting step forward for male-female relations in Morocco. The telecasting of soccer games should be mandatory in cafés 365 days of the year.

The second lesson I learned is that football has profoundly deep fault lines and the only middle ground is a perilous chasm which destroys the weak and unsure. You are for a team or against it. The enemy of my friend is my enemy ... pithy pithy pithy blah blah blah bullshit. But, not giving a rat's ass who won, I found it interesting to watch allegiances shift as favourites were knocked out ... which leads us to the final game (which again I did not watch but heard the play-by-play via Mr CinR on MSN Messenger). I expect those who actually saw The Incident to correct me if Ihave erred. In a nutshell:
  1. A nipple tweak is perpetrated by Marco Materazzi upon Zinédine Zidane.
  2. Materazzi growls something to Zidane.
  3. Zidane headbutts Materazzi.
  4. Zidane is thrown out of the game.
  5. France, unable to bear another significant loss to their team, caves during the penalty kick.
This is pretty much it, right? And now the internet is awash with theories as to why it happened. Did Materazzi call Zidane a "dirty terrorist" (to which the former responded, rather ingenuously, that "I don't even know what the word means." I guess he wasn't kidding when he said that he was "ignorant")? No one's telling. I asked a large-ish number of people here whether the headbutt was justified and what could Materazzi have said that would validate Zidane's reaction. The overwhelming majority of men and women I asked (all the women, by the way, felt it was inexcusable & shameful) felt that the headbutt was necessary because the Italian team had been goading Zidane all day. Wow. Secondly, the uniform response to my second question was that a comment about one's mother - in the last heated moments of the World Cup - obliges you - the seasoned professional, on the cusp of retiring from a brilliant career - to ram your head into the diaphragm of your opponent. Wow. So just to reiterate, the following events are acceptable if you make a few amendments:
  1. A nipple tweak is perpetrated by Marco Materazzi upon Zinédine Zidane, probably in sordid reference to Materazzi's phantasies about Zidane's mother.
  2. Materazzi makes a scurrilous comment to Zidane about his mother.
  3. Zidane headbutts the mother-loving Materazzi.
  4. Zidane, the family honour intact, is thrown out of the game, unjustly.
  5. France, unable to bear the thought that the honour of Zidane's mother was impugned, loses to cravenly Italy during the penalty kick.
... and we'll toss out words like professionalism, camaradery, and self-restraint. There, it all makes sense to me now. Wow, injurying your opponent, jeopardizing your team's chances to win an international award, and ending your career on such a disgraceful low note trumps the Mother's Day card I bought my mother last year. Hope she appreciated it. Even money next spring she says, "Zouzou, please, just a card this year!"


Anonymous chrisso said...

Very good points C in R. I do not agree with Zidane's actions but I can understand why he did it. As of this morning, FIFA has announced they are investigating the incident.

As for what was actually said:
BBC Radio Five Live asked for help from a deaf lip reader, Jessica Rees, who read the words phonetically to an Italian translator.

She deciphered the insult as being "you're the son of a terrorist whore" - a translation also carried by many newspapers.

The BBC's Ten O'Clock News also called in experts to study the television footage of the incident and determined the following:

Materazzi's first word to Zidane was "no" before he then told him to "calm down". Materazzi then accused him of being a "liar" and wished "an ugly death to you and your family" on the day the Frenchman's mother had been taken to hospital ill. This was followed by "Go f*** yourself".

Classy eh?

The Italian team in general disgusts me. First there was an elbow to the face of an American Player, contsant flopping and diving all over the field. They should be nominated for an Oscar for their diving. Ask the Australians about that - Italy won a penalty kick that was set up on a total dive! Speaking of cheaters, keep in mind that the Italian Football leagues are being investigated for corruption (officials and players being bribed - etc.)

I am not bitter than Italy won, but I am bitter that they chose to do it in such an unsportsman like manner. FIFA has been promoting it's Fair Play program and this must apply to not only diving and head butts but also racial slurs and verbal abuse.

2:20 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Hi Chrisso:
This is all very interesting and, if someone called me the daughter of a terrorist whore, I'd probably get annoyed too (after I finish laughing hysterically). But at what point do you draw the line between taunting slurs (said expressly to rile you up) and professionalism & decorum in sports? Zidane's reaction was not that of one man but, ultimately, of the entire team. Did Materazzi deserve the headbutt? Maybe. Did the French team? No.

2:32 p.m.  
Anonymous chrisso said...

Hi C in R,
"professionalism & decorum in sports" I think that is the issue right there. It seems to be deteriorating in almost all sports, especially so at this World Cup. Every team has taken a dive or a cheap shot at some point in the tournament. This needs to be addressed.I do have a problem with officiating. It is the same thing many times in the NHL - players usaully get called for retaliation when the initial penalty or offence does not.

Do you believe that Materazzi should have been punished? Certainly a yellow card?

I don't think that France wins this game if Zidane isn't ejected. They still went to penalty kicks and Zidane can only take one in the first series. They could have still won and you can't blame an ejected player for not scoring.

2:48 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

1) If Materazzi's comments had been recorded or noted, then yes, he should have receive a yellow thingy.
2) Zidane had to be ejected,
3) France could still have won it.
... so I think we're on the same playing field here Chrisso.

2:51 p.m.  
Anonymous Cath said...

Was there a soccer game this weekend??

3:07 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

I guess. I was sick.

3:10 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

I don't know soccer (despite the few games I watch every World Cup, and despite the fact that my girls and I were partying in Little Italy after the Big Win). My take as a sports fan (as opposed to a soccer fan) is that it doesn't matter what was done or said to Zidane, as a highly paid professional, playing for the Honour of France in his last World Cup, in overtime of the championship game. He should have maintained his cool, and stayed in the game in order to be available for the (what was becoming) the inevitable penalty kicks.

If Materazzi so insulted him, Zidane should have kept it inside until after the game to then wreak revenge on the nasty Italian. That way he still gets his pound of flesh, but France has a chance.

That's my feeling. The Italians do indeed have a reputation for racial insults (their soccer team, not the nation as a whole), but by exploding like that Zidane played right into they're hands, and may have given the game to Italy.

My two cents worth...

3:58 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Je suis d'accord.

4:19 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

What, is that supposed to be French or something?

BTW, as an aside, one thing I will say about soccer, is that those guys have the coolest names ever. I love the guys that have, like, just one name, like Renaldo, Renaldino, Zidane, Pele, like that. And, although one rarely refers to him by his first name, Zindedine Zidane has like the coolest name ever!

5:01 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

You could be Knarfaldo? Knarfalino? Knarfine?

5:18 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...


I think simply "le knarf".

5:35 p.m.  
Blogger squindia said...

ahh..I caught the futbol fever here in India. It's been my social life for the better part of the past month. Like Chrisso, I despise the Italian team and after Portugal was out my only wish was that Italy lose! They are dramatic babies and do not play fair in any way. What Zidane did was a shock for sure. He has a reputation for being cool headed and professional. I don't think what he did was necessarily justified but I can understand with the pressure he was under, it being his last game, and how those particular insults would especially get to him.

I can only imagine what Morocco was like that night!

5:37 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...


I heard the same about Zidane: that he's normally cool-headed, professional, and that his head-butt was a shock and completely out-of-character.

That still doesn't excuse his behaviour, pressure or no.

I was pulling from France in the final, if for no other reason than that if one goes back far enough (like 400 years) my heritage is French. Still, due to the passion shown by the Italian fans here in Toronto and around the world, for their love of the game and their love of life, I wasn't too sad that Italy won.

When it comes right down to it, I don't much give a rat's ass who wins at footie.

If you want to talk injustices, did I mention to you how the eventual Stanley Cup champions in professional hockey beat my team, the Montreal Canadiens, by nearly carving out the eye of our captain, Saku Koivu, possibly ending his career? Did I mention that they weren't even penalized for their flagrant foul?

Did I mention that? Huh? HUH?!?

Sorry, soccer I don't care about, but hockey (perhaps you know it better as "ice hockey") I get passionate about.

6:03 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Hey Squindia! Will cricket fever be far behind?

I'd like to remind everyone of Zouzou's little red-card infraction & 2-game suspension for stomping on Saudi Arabia's team captain Fuad Amin in the '98 World Cup. Apparently, Amin had provoked him verbally.

And Knarf, we won't even mention what happned to Saku Koivu because that injustice only proves that there is no god, and most people aren't ready for that.

6:44 p.m.  
Blogger squindia said...

oh no! I didn't know about the Saudi thing.

I'm told that cricket will take its hold. But I have my doubts, apparently baseball is based on cricket and I have no love for baseball. Although people around here claim that EVERYTHING stops when there is a cricket match. We shall see...

7:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

Erm, Zidane is not famous for being cool-headed. He's famous for having a fabulously bad temper that only occasionally breaks out.


As for the head butt, I read an article (written by the sissy French, or course), that said ""This morning, Zinedine, what do we tell our children, and all those for whom you were the living role model for all times?"

Oh, PLEASE. Tell your kids the truth - Zidane was one of the greatest players of this decade, if not THE greatest, but one who could not control his temper on the field - though one might say, given the number of games he played vs. actual incidents of violence, he did pretty good.

Explain to the dear little chldren that even though it looks very cool to head butt someone that viciously (and is probably being practiced right now in kids soccer games everywhere), the repercussions are not so cool. Being ejected from games and not scoring, for example. Oh, and that violence is bad etc... (remind me not to have kids any time soon, not with my own bad temper and all...)

3:22 a.m.  
Anonymous angelfish said...

What I learned growing up was 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.'
But maybe that can't be translated into French? Or Italian? By the way, does Zidane understand Italian? Did Materazzi speak French? Or was it said in Esperanto, the language of peace?

and www.menara.ma has a story about the internet take-offs on the incident.

8:55 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Yes, must have been Esperanto - the language of peace!!!!

8:34 a.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

I'm not sure that it's Esperanto, but "Yo mama!" is universally understood!

11:30 a.m.  
Blogger ByronB said...

I was disappointed in Zidane - I wish he'd punched the greasy wop's teeth down his throat!

I've no time for people who descend to personal insults on the field - apart from the "you kick a football like a nine-year-old-girl" type - the whole Italian team should have been banned on the spot. Their diving and play-acting was a disgrace.

8:02 a.m.  

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