Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!
Everyone in France is talking about Zinédine Zidane, and "the headbutt affair"--an incident during the last game of the World Cup of Soccer (Football), in which Zidane headbutted an Italian player, effectively ending his own career. He was redcarded, and this was his last game before he retired from the sport, so he ended his career on a bit of a low note.
Although the Italian player spoke up, the French were not eager to believe his story, insisting that it must have been something "très grave", because Zidane is known for his calm approach and his rational outlook on life. Whispers of insults against his family, speculations of racial slurs, and professional lip readers all vied for attention, and the lunch tables buzzed while everyone tried to figure out just what happened.
Tonight, on French television, Zidane spoke up about the incident. Though he apologized for his behavior because of the children and adults who look up to him, he insisted that he would do the same again, because the remarks were "very, very tough" and did concern his mother and sister, despite the Italian player insisting he had not insulted them. Zidane refused to name the actual insults, saying he didn't think it was appropriate for the children of France, his own included, to know exactly what was said, but he wanted to clarify that the insults were very nasty, that they were repeated three times (he attempted to walk away, but the other player persisted), and that he hadn't made the arrogant comment attributed to him by Materazzi. He expressed a wish for an investigation, and punishment for the provoking party, Materazzi.
In addition, Zidane told of his own shock when he heard of some talk by an Italian politician, who chose this time to make more racial slurs against footballers (see IHT article, linked below). Zidane was born in France, is a French citizen, and has a French family. His own parents were immigrants from Algeria, which sparked many rumors about the possible nature of the offensive remarks. Zidane has been the target of racial slurs throughout his football career.
After watching the interview, both Dr. B and I were impressed with Zidane's professionalism, apparent honesty and maturity. Reading the summation article doesn't really capture his reaction--choosing the sound bites that are the most weighty, and downplaying his calm, thoughtful responses. We both wonder if the story is being changed, as it travels across the ocean and through the mouths of interpreters, spin doctors and talking heads. It will be interesting to find out from the home front whether or not this is an important issue, and if it sparks debate or interest in the state of affairs on the other side of the globe. Immigration issues and racism are not limited to one country, unfortunately.
(You can read an English version of the article, which has some quotations from Zidane, here. If you can understand French, please do watch the complete video. For another perspective and more history on Zidane and the issues brought up during this incident, read the International Herald Tribune article here.)