Imagine this: you’re playing in a
month long soccer tournament. You’ve made it to the
finals. You’re playing the game right now. You’re
exhausted. Your legs feel like rubber bands, maybe even overcooked
spaghetti. You’re an emotional wreck. So tired, anger
and tears come more easily for you than usual.
Thousands of people have crowded into the stadium to watch
you. Millions more are watching you on television worldwide.
You are a superstar. The captain of the side. Moreover, you
have announced your retirement. This is your final game.
The finals in the World Cup.
Now you’re in physical play. An opposing player roughs
you up a bit. The play is over. He mouths off at you. You
don’t like it. What do you do? Your team needs you.
There will be more overtime. There may be penalty kicks.
Do you walk away? Brush the comments off? Accept the physicality
of the opposing player?
Not if you’re French captain Zinedine Zidane. If you’re
Zidane, you run out ahead of your enemy, turn, and head-but
Italian Marco Materazzi in the chest.
In one moment of irrational, immature behavior, you sacrifice
your legendary status, your leadership position as captain,
your ability to help your side, your ability to score in
overtime, your ability to make a penalty kick.
Now you go down in history as a villain, not only to those
who are shocked by your physical attack on the Italian player
but also for letting down your side. Now you will sit in
a locker room, you will not stand on stage, you will not
receive your silver medal. But knowing you, you probably
don't want a silver medal anyway.
Red card. Sent off the pitch. And you deserve it.
Ironically, it was Zadine’s lone score in the seventh
minute of play that got France in the position to be battling
in overtime in the first place. Too bad he couldn’t
hold it together past the 111th minute of play.
Sadly, this is not the first time we have been disappointed
by Zidane’s temperament. In the 1998 World Cup, he
stomped a Saudi’s chest. Stomped. Need I remind you
of the cleats on the bottom of a soccer player’s shoe?
Many have said that Zidane may be one of the greatest to
play the game. They mention his name in the same sentence
as Pele, Beckenbauer, and Maradona. Well, I can’t think
of him that way. I see a spoiled, selfish brat who puts his
own immature impulses above the needs of his team, even above
respectability. The “light and grace” often attributed
to his play only look like childish arrogance to me.