"Hmmm". That’s my final word… so now for the commentary (watch out for the hyperlinks in this, too).
Watching closely, the French team does definitely look the better of the two and Zidane’s header that almost, but not quite, went in, the best chance of a goal before the penalties came around. An ‘almost, but not quite’ situation, which meant that the game was still far from over. Then, of course, we have the headbutt. No doubt that he was goaded into it. Yet also no doubt that he would have been better off closing his ears and ignoring it. What was said? Well, certainly a series of slurs that will probably come out in more detail and with the physical contact preceding it, are certainly unacceptable behaviour.
Was the headbutt, that damaged the team’s chances justified? No- there are no excuses- not only do violent responses to insults make no sense, but he also let a personal vendetta come before the team that he was the Captain of… he should expect to be goaded as this is part of the sport (although this may be an extreme example). Was it understandable? Probably… a long match, supremely rtired, the wrong words at the wrong time… people make mistakes, there is a limit to the amount of stress that anyone can endure or even wishes to endure. His main mistake was to even listen to it. Once his feelings had been hurt, it was a kind of self-defensive reaction. Shame on Matadori (sic) for provoking it and damaging his team’s reputation just before their victory, which may well have been theirs whether this happened or not. He behaved disgracefully and from what I’ve heard, Italian soccer is generally pretty corrupt, these days. Also, shame on Zidane for reacting this way, which is inexcusable- he should learn to control his temper.
Another point it that despite the harassment, the referee did almost nothing to protect Zidane, not so much out of a bias towards Italy, as because of a refereeing style in the tournament that seems to encourage diving to the ground for slight physical fouls, whilst ignoring other real ones. Foul language, manipulative behaviour, provocation- all of these should have been given cautions as even from the camera views they were obvious. Yet, the bigger they are, the harder they fall… and wow did Zidane fall! If only he had hung on those last few minutes and remembered that he was there to play football, saving the personal stuff for later, or better still ignoring it! This may well be expecting more than a human can bear, though. It’s just so sad that it should have happened now, of all times in his career. Perhaps it would have been better had he come off after his shoulder injury, that may have provided a convenient escape from what was about to happen…
Zidane is nevertheless a great man, a Legend; nothing can change this. Not a god, as gods are perfect, but still a great Man. So although ironic, it is quite fitting that his award for best man of the tournament stands. Its not all about winning at any cost. It’s about playing the game- which is what, up until those last few minutes, he was doing better than anyone else. Therefore this unfortunate and seemingly manufactured incident cannot prevent him from receiving the Perfect Future award that had also already been prepared, for his awesome contribution to world sport. A man of passion, who respected his opponents far more than they ever respected him.
Another Perfect Future award goes to the Brazil team- for playing fairly and showing a love of the game itself. This is not only being awarded to the current team of Brazil, but their general team throughout World Cup History, whose best traditions are still very much alive. Not once did I find them ruthless or crude. I never found them trying to simply hem in the other team or humiliate them. They played for the love of playing, like true and graceful pros. True, in this particular world cup they were perhaps less impresive than usual. Yet a lot of that can be put down to the defensive way of playing that predominated, in which their true glory finds less opportunity to shine. In those moments when it did, they showed themselves to be far more ‘beautiful’ than any other team. They played to play, not just to win, which makes them good examples to all the youngsters watching arounf the world.
As for the final, it was a tragic end for France, who seemed sure to regain the title… but a wonderful chance for Italy. I have to congratulate them on this victory, as winning the game is what the game is all about- not all the gossip and temper tantrums. They played well and also scored the only non-penalty-related goal in the game, just as they did against Germany. Also, they weren’t just ‘lucky’ with the penalties- they were flawless. Perhaps they were the luckiest team, yet in such close matches luck, or the subtle skills that make the difference, count for so much. Also they didn’t have any players on board like Roonie or Zidane, who whilst technically brilliant are given to losing their temper if provoked. Football’s a team sport and at the end of the day the main element in winning is loyalty to the team, which they had.
They may have behaved slyly, just as others did, but they didn’t win because of this. The defensive, presumptive ‘negative football’ we saw from other teams was less obvious in their style, which is what propelled them to the top. Negativity is a double-edged sword- you think it is only hurting the opponent but it can easily be used against you, too- far better just to play as well as you can. By being fresh, by not being intimidated by greater teams, they made their own luck. They played football the best and couldn’t help but win. That’s what I’d like to think, anyway!
(Photo Copyright BBC World)