In Zidane’s defence: He is still the best soccer player of his time

So Zizou bowed out and his epitaph will read, “He was the greatest soccer player of his time except……. “. There should be no second guessing at all, he is still the greatest soccer player this generation has seen and we should count ourselves fortunate to see him at his best. He did what no other player did for France, win them them the World Cup and came close to winning them another. Platini, as great as he was could not manage it. Zidane was also at the vanguard of what we see as a transformational moment in French soccer with it’s now taken for granted mutli-ethnic hue. His play in the 1998 final when he dismantled the Brazilians by his two stunning headers is what I remember him by. The PK that he took in this final against Italy where he beat a lunging Buffon with a delicately placed chip was as good as the goal by Esteban Cambiasso after the concerto by the Argentinians against the Serb- Montenegro team.
Zidane is a low key and private person. I do not know much about his personal life and I am sure a lot of us are equally clueless. I would like to think that he let his game define him unlike many of his other peers who seem to revel in the limelight off the field too. His retirement from soccer when he was worn out and injured, responding to Domenech’s call for this World Cup, and then laeading the Les Bleus to the brink of success is by itself the story of this World Cup. We can count these type of extraordinary accomplishments in any field on our fingers.
Zizou was human and he showed that in the match against Italy. Yes, given his experience, maturity, and his level of play, it was a mindless foul. Yes, it was a foul that probably cost France the game. But can you say that Zizou gave it his all everytime he played for France. All 90 minutes and more. Absolutely. When I think of the players who were supposed to have made this World Cup theirs, Ronaldinho, Kaka, David Beckham, Juan Roman Riquelme, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Steven Gerrard, they are the ones that people should be shaking their heads at and wondering if they were wrong all along. For Ronaldinho, this World Cup was his coming out party, where he would finally vindicate all those comparisons to Pele and Maradona. Certainly, Beckham, whose World Cup career is over must be wondering about the legacy he has left behind. On the world’s greatest stage he has always managed to come up short.
For a long time we felt that Maradona had tarnished his image fatally by mainlining cocaine and taking ephedrine which got him booted out of the 1994 US World Cup. But here we are still debating as to who was the greatest, Pele or Maradona? His two goals against England in the 1986 World Cup is still what we remember Maradona by. He is his country’s most loved ambassador and the host of one of it’s most popular TV talk shows. He was a fixture in this World Cup cheering on the Albiceleste, like Platini, like Beckenbauer, for their countries, and I am sure in the World Cups to come, we will also see Zizou proudly coming forth in support of the Les Bleus. He will not go gentle into that good night.

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9 comments on “In Zidane’s defence: He is still the best soccer player of his time
  1. Shourin, great tribute. Ultimately, I think history will be kind to Zidane and forget/forgive this last transgression.
    This was not Rooney’s heel, this was clearly prompted by something Materazzi said. One can only imagine and that imagining vindicates Zizou to the point where Materazzi’s remark becomes the real foul.
    Zidane was a true bright spot in this WC. And the sport of football is worse off without him.

  2. I’ve been a fan of soccer/football/futball for quite some time. I grew up playing the beautiful game and have always had a lot of respect for it. It has a classiness that is lacking in American sports, and watching people like Maradona, Henry, and Zidane play can be like watching Michael Jordan.
    When I saw Zidane head-butt Materazzi, I was in shock. He’s Zizou has been a fan of mine for some time, and in my mind, the action against Materazzi was unbelievable.
    But, I believe there are times when a man should take matters into his own hands. I can think of three things that may have been said to Zidane which, in my mind, would justify his actions against Materazzi. They are, in no particular order:
    * Vilification of religion
    * Vilification of culture
    * Vilification of family
    I think it holds true that most people, if vilified in one of the three above would react angerily, and if Zidane reacted to an insult which fell into one of the three categories above, his actions are, in my mind, justified.
    However, if Materazzi’s insult/jeer was outside one of these three areas, than, again, in my mind, Zidane was not justified.
    This article in the BBC is interesting, but there remains too much specualtion. However, if what is suggested in the article about Materazzi’s comments is true, not only was Zidane justified in head butting Materazzi, but the later should be forced to suffer consequences.
    Materazzi denies terrorist insult
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2006/5168126.stm
    While we should not tolerate violence in sport, nor should we tolerate racism.

  3. Yes, Zidane is one of the greatest players of all time and a red card won’t erase the great moments of his career from anyone’s minds. And I can understand why you’d want to take matters into your own hands. However, this was a stupid mistake and no matter how justified it may seem in your mind it still needs to be penalised.
    Zidane plays in the Italian league, is a hero there, speaks a little of the language and knows who Marco Materazzi is. Is Materazzi a dirty player? Sure. There’s no real surprise there. But, those types of insults happen all the time and he should have dealt with it. France has a team that is 75% black and I’m sure they’ve dealt with a lot worse things said about them by other players and fans each and every game. And this the World CUp final!
    Zidane should not have been given the Golden Ball because it sends the wrong message. Players are supposed to handle those situations with discipline and self control. You don’t tell your 10 year old to ‘punch the other guy in the face when he calls you sissy pants’.
    Look back to Euro 2004 and how Totti was vilified in the media around the world, including home in Italy. He was being taunted by Poulsen (another dirty player) just like Zidane was by Materazzi. And he was punished for spitting not an actual physical attack. Three games for gross unsporting misconduct. Yet Zidane gets an award and a heroes welcome in France???
    So why make excuses for Zidane now?
    On a lighter note…
    The BBC has just released the verbal exchange between Materazzi and Zidane prior to the head-butt. The dialogue has reportedly been confirmed by no less than 3 independent lip readers, one of whom works for the British secret service.
    Materazzi: Funny. You’re really funny.
    Zidane: What do you mean?
    Materazzi: It’s funny, you know. It’s a good story. You’re a funny guy.
    Zidane: You mean the way I talk?
    Materazzi: What? It’s just, you know. You’re just funny. You know, the way you tell the story.
    Zidane: Funny how? What’s funny about it?
    Materazzi: You got it all wrong. Just, you know. You’re funny.
    Zidane: Let me understand this. Maybe I’m a little fucked up. But I’m funny how? Funny like a clown? I amuse you? I’m here to fucking amuse you? What do you mean, funny? How am I funny?
    Materazzi: You know, how you tell a story. I don’t know.
    Zidane: You said it. You said I’m funny. How am I funny? What the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me what’s funny.
    Materazzi: Get the fuck out of here, Zinadine!

  4. ZIZOU,Thanks in behaving in such away, you are a man before being a hero. you cannot be a hero without being a man.what you did is the most courageous thing can ever be done.
    When you behave like that risking everything ;your history, the world cup, what will be said by racists, you should be considered the real hero, Man ,you crowned your history with the fact that you are a man ,a real man.In a world that people forgot a very important word ,you still stands for it ,you still stands for “honor”.
    For what is a man, what has he got?
    If not himself, then he has naught.
    To say the things he truly feels;
    And not the words of one who kneels.
    The record shows I took the blows -
    And did it my way!
    YOU DID IT YOUR WAY ZIZOU
    You are the best ,and for me France won the world cup.
    Abir Ahmed (Egypt) penelope_eg@yahoo.com

  5. Zidane is the best ever. Always came up big in Games. World, Euro, Champions league. Real long exceptional career from start to finish. AH man if only had won that last world cup. He would have been in a league of his own. Pele and Maradona would have been second to Zidane. Zidane is forever best to me.

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