The New Rooney
All is forgiven. After a tournament where officiating drew the ire of fans, media and even FIFA President Sepp Blatter, the officiating team in the final have redeemed their peers by making one of the best -- and most difficult -- calls of the tournament.
Their decision to eject French captain Zinedine Zidane for a behind-the-play headbutt has outraged spectators and best-dressed manager Raymond Domenech. When they see the replays tonight, there will be no room for a defence of Zizou.
The attack by Zidane must rank as the tournament's most unexpected outburst. The ejection of Wayne Rooney, while controversial with some, was the result of an outburst by a player famed for his ill-temper. Zidane has a modest background in this regard (although his outburst during the second group stage match will now appear to foreshadow this incident), and coming in the second-half of extra-time, his actions rank as extraordinarily selfish and disgraceful.
I can't fathom what Zidane's explanation will be following the match. For now, we should simply congratulate the officials for consulting with each other, and making the necessary call without consideration for the reaction.
UPDATE: While the 1998 and 2000 incidents are now being recalled, it should be remembered that during six consecutive seasons for Real Madrid Zidane was only sent off twice, and he also avoided red cards in international play during that period. There's speculation about the words Materazzi spoke that presumably pushed Zidane over the edge. This combination biography/psychography at kabyles.com offers a compelling perspective:
"One of the theories about Zidane as a player is that he is driven by an inner rage. His football is elegant and masterful, charged with technique and vision. But he can still erupt into shocking violence that is as sudden as it is inexplicable. The most famous examples of this include head butting Jochen Kientz of Hamburg during a Champions League match, when he was at Juventus in 2000 (an action that cost him a five match suspension) and his stomping on the hapless Faoud Amin of Saudi Arabia during the 1998 World Cup finals (this latter action was, strangely enough, widely applauded in the Berber community as Zidane’s revenge on hated Arab ’extremists’).UPDATE II THE FRENCH CONNECTION: While many in France have expressed sympathy for Zidane, few if any have been willing to apologize for or defend him the way the English press did for Rooney. A quick roundup courtesy of the wire services: "We can imagine that there was a provocation [but Zidane's act was] unpardonable. It's a strange exit." -- Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour. "We can't excuse this gesture." -- former Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet. "This morning, Zinedine, what do we tell our children, and all those for whom you were the living role model for all times?...neither Ali, nor Pele, nor Owens, nor any other great hero of their standing -- the standing that you were on the verge of joining -- ever broke the most elementary rules of sport like you did." -- sports daily L'Equipe. "The blue angel was transformed into a demon. He can't exit this way, it's impossible. This morning, the sense of incredulousness is still there." --Le Parisien.
Zidane’s first coaches at AS Cannes noticed quickly that he was raw and sensitive, eager to attack spectators who insulted his race or family. The priority of his first coach, Jean Varraud, was to get him to channel his anger and focus more on his game. According to Varraud, Zidane’s first weeks at Cannes were spent mainly on cleaning duty as a punishment for punching an opponent who had mocked his ghetto origins.
By the time he arrived at Juventus, in 1996, he had become known for his self-control and discipline, both on and off the pitch..."