Christian's concern was well founded but we will get to see the maestro in action during this World Cup one last time. Zenedine Zidane had announced his retirement previously in August 2004. His retirement at the time came in the wake of unsubstantiated reports that several of his teammates on the French squad had protested against his captaincy of the team. Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera and Robert Pires are alleged to have said Zidane should leave the captaincy to somebody more deserving.
But he was persuaded by Raymond Domenech, the French coach to play for France in this World Cup. Zizou's announcement in August 2005, that he was returning spurred Claude Makélélé and Liliam Thuram to also give up their retirement and return to the field. The trio played their first game against the Faroe Islands. Zidane's return helped inspire the team to World Cup qualification.
Zizou's family comes from the same Berber village in Algeria as one of my neighbors and though he plays for France, he is held in great pride in the Berber community, a minority in Algeria. They have fought a long and hard war to make Tamazghit, their language equal in status to Arabic, the official language.
In the 1998 World Cup, angered by a challenge during the 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia, Zizou lost his cool completely and stamped on Saudi skipper Fuad Amin. He was red-carded and banned for two matches, including the last-16 win over Paraguay.
France went on to win the World Cup of course. But for a Berber woman living in a Marseilles tenement the defining moment of that match, and perhaps of the Cup, was the one in which Zinedine's studded boot smashed down on to an Arab leg. ``That was Zinedine's revenge against the Arabs,'' she was to tell a reporter.
In 2001 Zidane moved to the world's richest club, Real Madrid, becoming the most expensive player in the game's history. The Spanish club signed him for $64.45 million, a record that still stands. In 2002, he helped the Spanish team to the European Champions League after beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 in the final. Few can forget the historic left-foot volley he delivered from the edge of the area to seal his team's victory. The goal was selected by experts as one of the best 10 in history.
Hopefully, Zizou will go out in style in this World Cup. He heads a strong French midfield with Claude Makelele, Patrick Viera, Robert Pires, and Vikash Dhorasoo.