Home / Zidane and Materazzi: Beavis and Butthead

Zidane and Materazzi: Beavis and Butthead

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And so the build up to the Euro 2008 qualifying match between France and Italy in September continues.

Italian weekly magazine TV Sorrisi e Canzoni claims to know what was really said by Marco Materazzi to Zinadine Zidane on the pitch on that annoying day.

According to the magazine Materazzi describes the infamous and pointless verbal tug of war thusly:

“I had his shirt for only a few seconds, he turned to me and spoke to me in a manic fashion, looked at me arrogantly from top to bottom and said: “If you want my shirt you can have it after the match.”

“I (Materazzi) responded with an insult, that is true.”

What was the insult exactly? That Materrazzi preferred Zidane’s “whore of a sister.” Other sources claim it was the more poignant “slut of a sister.” Tomato, tomahto.

Then, “Wham!” Insert “Wake me up before you go, go” here.

For everyone’s sake, I hope she really isn’t a concubine.

I feel let down. I was kinda hoping that there would have been more meat to this. Something along the lines of “you’re mother is a promiscuous terrorist who slept her way to the top. And she wears construction boots.”

At least that would have sorta explained his meltdown.

The Matrix, as Materazzi is known, has stressed that he never gave the magazine an interview and that they pulled the quote from his autobiography slated to come out in early September.

Needles to say, all the pride and prejudices are questionably filling many soccer threads that litter the Internet. As far as I can tell and according to Zizou fans, Zidane is the ancient-folk hero and misunderstood artist and poet-scholar who, in a moment of frail and flawed humanity, succumbed to that trickster Til Eulenspiegel.

Other simply let their selective perception get the better of them – Which, of course, is usually unsubstantiated and rather unfortunate.

Zidane cracked. Cracked like that rotund sloth Humpty Dumpty. End of story.

Let us all now close this sad chapter in World Cup soccer.

However, not before I offer my middling and petty two cents. The way I interpret life is pretty straightforward: either you believe in accountability and responsibility or you don’t.

But that’s me. I know that if I head-butted someone like that my father would have butted my head against the wall until I realized I was the butthead.

Too many justifications and pontifications have elegantly been asserted and described to defend Zidane. Take it to Vienna folks. Zidane exited the world’s biggest sporting stage as a cop out.

What Materazzi said was uncouth indeed. In this light, all the more reason to walk away. Instead, Zidane chose to let his tribal instincts define his actions. Easier said than done? Perhaps. But you have to find it in you to restrain yourself. Can you imagine if such a violent response becomes a common practice to any misperceived verbal insult? Think of it.

If he wanted to defend the honour of his sister (and gee I really do hope she isn’t a slut because this would have all been for naught) couldn’t he have at least waited until the end of the game to ram Materrazzi like The Rhino in the walk way? That would have been so much cooler.


All I know, and I know precious little, is this feud has (the now defunct) Celebrity Boxing written all over it.

Maybe they can throw Lohan and Hilton – drenched in delicious tupelo honey – into the mix?

I digress.

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About Alessandro Nicolo

  • Talia

    “Tribal instincts”???? just what the hell is that supposed to mean?? Would you have said that if Zidane had been John Smith? Wow…we’re showing our racist tendencies aren’t we? fine, then I’ll respond in kind. I see that you’re obviously Italian, I suppose that precludes you from being objective. Zidane has already expressed enough regret and sorrow to fill several Materazzi tomes. He has said he was wrong, what more do you want? How much hand wringing, self righteous editorializing such as your own does he have to endure? Besides, he’s not the one keeping this issue alive now is he? Who is the one constantly capitalizing on this? Your beloved Materazzi!!! if you truly want to see this laid to rest, then maybe you should put a muzzle on him cause he’s the one who won’t let this die. Seems to me like you’re determined to bury Zidane and negate his genius and standing in the history of the game but you’re missing the real point: what’s done is done but its Materazzi’s behavior since then that should be criticized but instead you’re cutting him a huge amount of slack and resorting to taking cheap, racist shots at Zidane and letting Materazzi off the hook. I guess it’s true, some Italians really don’t play fair….

  • alessandro nicolo


    Methinks you need to reread this article….very….carefully….and bring a dictionary.

    Oh dear, Matt. I fear a Barbaro-like fall-out. Call RJ.

  • Alessandro Nicolo

    I know I’m going to regret this but…here goes:

    1) So, as a result of a perceived racist comment (such big words to be throwing around lightly), this accords you the right to unleash a few prejudicial phrases of your own? Tit for tat? Interestng given the topic being covered.

    2) Please point to me where, according to your presumptuousness, I express any love for Materazzi? In Italian dialect “Matte” means crazy and this seems fitting to a player who plays on the edge like he does. Ironically, it does apply to Zidane also in this particular case. That he (Materazzi) is the most unsavoury (yet extremely effective if not clumsy at times) of footballers is a given (he’s not my style) and need not have been rehashed here. Before the tournament started I had told a colleague that Materazzi was an international incident waiting to happen. He’s Christian Poulsen and Claude Lemieux rolled into one.

    3) I read somewhere on a British soccer thread that “Materazzi played, and Zidane got played.” It was probably the best line I read about the incident. In a way, not to just French supporters but all soccer fans, it was unfortunate that Zidane succumbed to a few petty words from a known agitator. I wanted him IN the match.

    4) I invite you to read my piece about the legacy of French soccer. I am, above all, a soccer fan. In the last ten years they have produced the bulk of the world’s best players and they deserve full credit for it. While many may “hate” the French, I kinda like them – it’s easy when you have family and watched and played soccer there. I will say this: Before 1998, French soccer was struggling and no one cared about France or Zinadine Zidane who was showcasing his wonderful skills for Juventus in Italy.

    5) Zidane never really apologized. Get your facts straight. I don’t know if you read or speak French (L’Equipe is one of my personal favorite sports magazines), but that was not a true apology. He skated. He was wrong for that. He should have taken full accountability without the “buts.”

    6) Materazzi is indeed keeping the issue alive for his book. However, so is French coach Domenech. He brings it up every, what, fifteen minutes? Zidane benefitted from the “exposure” too. Zidane has since rebuffed any extended olive branches by Materazzi – though I have no idea why he feels the need to do this. However, above all, this issue will always come forward given the absurd nature of its content. A tiny little pointless blogger ain’t going to change this fact. The act (in case you are unaware Zidane had been known to lash out in the past) will let part of Zidane’s legacy live in infamy – for better or worse. History will determine how much of it will impact it. I doubt I’ll have any say in that.

    7) I am taking dead aim at the action – free of nationality. I make no apologies for this. Zidane could and should have walked away considering who was doing the chirping. Mind you, he was not fully innocent. He opened the dialogue with his “you can have my shirt” remark. Now granted, Mat. was tugging at his jersey but as any soccer fan and player knows, that is a common tacitc and occurence by all players in all leagues. Zidane left himself wide open and he fell into the trap. One last thng that can be used against Materazzi: generally, while most insults and taunting or trash talking is accepted, comments about family members tend to be considered out of bounds. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and I am sure Materazzi isn’t the only one. Soccer has an issue with racism on the pitch which is a bigger problem.

    8) Tribal instincts referred to human nature’s primal need to react violently instead of counting to effen ten.

    9) Notice that the title was Beavis and Butthead. Both are worthy characters in a Mike Judge cartoon.

    But thanks for the comment.

  • Marcus

    To be fair to Zidane he was not reacting under normal circumstances. He was in the World Cup Final in his last game of football and I think that great pressure had been building in him over the course of the tournament. Rousing his feelings and focusing them into his movement was always part of his game, it made him a special athlete. In this tournament I suspect Zidane pushed himself to the edge trying to find the player and leader that had been lost for 2 years. I’m not trying to excuse his inexcusable reaction, but I wouldn’t scoff easily at the way he cracked up.

  • alessandro Nicolo

    Marcus, thanks.

    That’s the only viable consideration here. I know that great pressure was heaped upon him in France. France started the tournament slowly and inconsistently (just like Zidane’s play) and were almost eliminated but as it progressed the French press and public demanded more. It was crazy according to friends and family how much they expected of him.

    That I sympathize with. But how is that any different than many other athletes? The Italian players were filled with all sorts of personal and national issues too. Gosh, to say nothing of the Iraqi players who won the Asian Cup. Nah, the more I think of it the less I sympathize.

    I just can’t get past the “action.” It sends the wrong message for a player of his stature. We all know, rightly or wrongly, that it is the retaliation that bears the heavier price.

    Then again, what the hell do I know? I sit here writing responses while I eat yogourt with berries.

  • Matrix? First he gets one of the greatest players ever sent off and now he wants to make money off of it by writing a book. He is soccer’s OJ Simpson. His conscience will not let him rest.

  • alessandro Nicolo

    I really hope some are not raising children.

    Johhny, hyperbole aside, here are some things to consider:

    -Zidane could have walked away. It’s called turning the other cheek and free will.

    -Prior to the incident, soccer had been littered with similar confrontations (though not always as stark and high profiled) in its past. No one cared. Suddenly, everyone cared for obvious reasons. Calls for FIFA rule changes (whatever this meant), the French PR machine (with the aid of lipreading flunkies) and other false allegations put people in a state of frenziness Alfred Hitchcock could only dream of. Sounds a tad hypocritical to me. Would anyone have cared if it was some other regular player? The answer is no. Star players are star players as we know all too well here in North America.

    -Zidane greatest ever? Now that’s up for debate. Masterful as he was, he’s not even the greatest French player. Michel Platini is. Both were exquisite in their time.

    -While I can’t speak to his conscience, the book is not about the headbutt but his autobiography. Everyone is writing one these days – look at the fricken English team and Posh Herb. He’s merely using it as a publicity stunt. Before you jump all over this, remember this is a standard ploy used by just about everyone in the Western hemisphere. In any event, people believe what they want to believe. Some think Bruce Springsteen profited off the back of 9/11 with ‘The Rising.’

    OJ Simpson – Johnny is pretty funny.

    It is what it is.

  • luca

    Platini greater than Zidan ? Is there any rational justification to that embarrassing statemant except his father is Italian? Being contrarian to common sense may tarnish your reputation.

  • alessandro nicolo

    What is the matter with you people? Yeesh.

    – According to France Football in their top players of the century they ranked the French players: 1) Platini, 2) Juste Fontaine and 3) Raymond Kopa.

    -He cracked World Soccer’s top 100.

    -International Federation of Football History and Statistics: #7 Platini #30 Fontaine #43 Kopa. Zidane is not in the top 50.

    Guerin Sportivo (Italy): Platini #7. I know stupid dagos what do they know?

    Placar (Brazil): #8 Platini #14 Fontaine #50 Kopa #72 Alain Giresse #92 Zidane.

    Voetbal (Netherlands) – Platini.

    No matter how you cut it, Platini (Napoleon was Italian too by the way. What can I say, we wops get around), is not just the greatest French player according to some of the world’s most respected publications but he is AMONG THE GREATEST PLAYERS OF ALL TIME. Usually regarded in the top 10. If many of you recall Platini, he was simply divine.

    I find that Zidane could be neutralized in a game. Platini was far more difficult to defend against. I could be wrong but this was my perception.

    Whether Zidane passes Kopa or Fontaine is another debate – my suspicion he does not.

    One of my personal favorite French players was Dominique Rocheteau – the Green Angel. That guy had style and could dribble.

  • alessandro nicolo

    I should mention that Zidane was named World Player of the year three times: In 1998 and 2000 when he played for Juventus – Italian fans know him very well. And 2003 with Real Madrid.

    We all know he’s won of the great players of our generation as I have mentioned.

    This award began in 1991 so we’ll never know how many times Platini would have won it. Platini won European Player of the year – which is essentially as prestigious and has been awarded since 1956 – three times to Zidane’s one. Kopa won it in 1958 with Real Madrid.

    Last, Platini was named to the World team of the 20th century. Granted, this was in 1998 but I still believe Platini would get the nod.

    For what it’s worth. People can deduce what they want from this. Nothing is written in stone. Cripes, some people think Wayne Gretzky is over rated.

  • Talia

    okay so i apologize that i misinterpreted your comment but the truth is there has been so much racist crap brought up even by well intentioned folks. I have seen references to “honor killings’, “Muslim rage” and Zidane’s supposedly “deeply ingrained sense of defending the honour of a Muslim woman” and all this in fairly prominent and respectable newspapers and websites!!! The sad thing is, Zidane isn’t even a practicing Muslim! he is married to a Christian woman, his children have Christian names-two of them are even Italian names- he has always tried to steer clear of political controversy since he is in many ways, the symbol of multi cultural France, and has been criticized in the past by hardcore Muslims for not being Muslim enough! Now all of a sudden he’s al-queda, hezbollah and the taliban all rolled into one!! Can you understand why I had the reaction i did when i read your words? Another thing is, just about everyone is accepting at face value what Materazzi says. Personally, I just don’t buy it. It’s obvious from the videos that a lot more than 6 words were said and my guess is he’s sanitized what he actually said cause if he repeated them again, his own deceased mother would come out of the grave and slap him silly. The actual words were probably a lot more graphic and lurid than he’s admitting to. But whatever, as you said, Zidane should have ignored him but it’s not a perfect world and don’t forget that Zidane’s mother had been hospitalized that morning which only added to his stress. Also, I don’t feel that Zidane should apologize to Materazzi. Materazzi has been cashing in on this all year with his joke book, his Nike commercial and now this book. Not to mention the numerous interviews he’s given where he gets his digs in at Zidane calling him a sore loser. He wanted a public reconciliation in front of the cameras with Zidane giving him his shirt! Later he claimed that even the UN was trying to intervene!!!!!!A few months after that he said that he had given his address to Zidane through mutual acquaintances along with a personal invitation for a private visit. So why tell the whole world if it’s supposed to be private? He just doesn’t ever shut up about it. I also disagree with you that Zidane has benefitted from this type of exposure. How on earth has this been beneficial to him and his reputation? Someone else mentioned OJ Simpson but it’s no exaggeration that in the US atleast, it’s Zidane who is perceived as another OJ Simpson or Tanya Harding. To be honest with you, I didn’t think the headbutt was that bad. We saw worse during the Portugal-Holland game. There have been worse acts of violence on the pitch before and since, unfortunately for Zidane, his timing was the lousiest imaginable.
    In any case, Zidane is still the one getting a raw deal and Materazzi is the one who gets to skate. anyway, i’m sorry i called you a racist.

  • alessandro Nicolo


    That’s more like it. No apology necessary but always best to count to ten before letting the emotions take over! I can handle people hating the piece itself (and it’s pretty border line as it is) but beyond this can be touchy.

    If you have any complaints please send them to editor Matt Sussman #555-….

    Here’s what I think and we see this with Michael Vick. Had Zidane simply said “I’m sorry” on French television all this would have gone away. People would have wanted to know why, he would have explained himself and that would be the end of it.

    Brie and wine on the house.

    But he helped to keep it alive by saying “I would do it again.” I think people were turned off by that. Furthermore, it was somewhat unfortunate all the circus surrounding what was said to begin with. Much of it were lies. So that didn’t help either.

    The issue is exaggerated and I agree. First Chirac and now Materazzi are milking it. Don’t forget, as I pointed out, Raymond Domenech does not shut up about it either.

    Should he apologize to Materazzi? Not really. Probably the best thing both could have done is shake hands publically – but even that can be lame and Zidane has resisted thus far anyway. And from what I have learnt, what he said was graphic enough so I think we can move on. Although, it’s probably tame compared to what goes on in the trenches of the NFL or NBA court.

    You are right about the pressure on him all that stuff about “not being Muslim” enough. Don’t forget, there was a lot of racism towards Italians. Much of it simply untrue or plain stupid. Many soccer fans in Italy are annoyed with Materazzi.

    Of course, the interesting thing is that French and Italian players get along just fine. Zidane is close with G. Buffon and I believe G. Gattuso. There were some speculation that Materazzi was a racist but that was never true. His close friend is O. Martin who played in Italy and is now playing in England.

    Where I respectfully disagree is with Zidane getting a raw deal. Look, in the end he committed the infraction. So he has to face the music. It was pretty bad Talia. In 30 years of soccer I’ve never seen anything like it. Except the time when a former team mate of mine produced a machete but that’s another story altogether.

    As a whole, the Portugal/Holland game was far worse. I agree. Both teams shelved their professional etiquette to gang up on a struggling referee. But as a single act, Zidane probably initiated on the the greatest ones ever. A butthead to the chest can send anyone flying. And yes, his timing was beyond lousy.

    Think of it. Is there any bigger sporting stage than this? I can’t think of one.

    This never a French/Italian thing. It was a Materazzi/Zidane thing. That’s important to remember. The last point that should be made is that we humans can be hypocritical. We pick and choose what we want to be outraged about (eg Ray Lewis versus Michael Vick). No one seemed to care what made Totti spit at Christian Poulsen in 2004 – who is every bit the equal to Materazzi when it comes to provocation.

    Too bad I don’t have a jersey to give you.

  • Marcus

    I agree that Zidane’s “I don’t regret it” and his refusal to forgive Materazzi has been as disappointing as the headbutt itself. I wasn’t trying to justify either, rather to try to figure out what was going on in his head. I remember Zidane committing petulant angry fouls in earlier matches in the tournament – against the Korean which got him his second yellow, and against Xabi Alonso (I think). He literally just kicked and barged those guys out of aggression. I saw that rarely in his career. Contrary to appearances I think Zidane was a very emotional character on the field, but introverted and controlled.

    Alessandro – those rankings look dated and atypical. what year were they done? I don’t think Zidane was one of the most consistently effective players of all time. I think his popularity stems from his great combination of technique, style, creativity and intelligence on the field. I remember watching the Euro 2000 game against Czech Republic. He played with little efficiency, he just drifted around and pulled off beautiful creative manouvres for the sake of it. Violent retaliations aside, I loved the way he played football.

  • alessandro Nicolo

    Well said Marcus. Good memory too!

    Those lists were put together between 1999 and 2001 – so they are somewhat dated. However, I have followed it closely enough to know that Zidane would not displace Platini. As I mentioned, there is a debate as to whether he passes Kopa and Fontaine – though even that would be tough. Good eye but I still felt it was relevant as these lists don’t tend to change all that much. Think of basketball, hockey, baseball and football – most of the cream of the crops in those sports don’t get knocked out and I think Platini is in that group.

    Of course, this is just my opinion.

    He did have a subtle skill to him. He almost, ironically enough, plays in the Italian tradition of quiet mid-field genius – like an Andrea Pirlo.

    But as I have said earlier, if you were to compile a list of the greatest players of the last ten years he definitely merits a high placing. We can’t forget he was a great footballer.

  • Jack

    Wonderful article, Mr. Nicolo.

    Dear Talia,
    Zidane aka Zizi was a doped player. I bet that Chirac’s France paid a lot to hide that fact and his lies about Materazzi (I mean, Zidane’s fake charges. The Italian player never told him: “terrorist”, “son of whore” etc. as many international papers reported after his first interview), just to promote Zizi as a victim and national hero. They influenced the media. This is the real shame.

    In addition the Italians were often victims of the French, Brazilian, and even German racism during the whole championship. You had to read the newspapers of the time.

    PS – Talia, I am Russian and proud to be. Just to make the point…

  • alessandro nicolo

    Thank you, Jack.

    I’m glad someone but those points up other than myself.

    And yes, a major German magazine wrote a racist piece about Italians under the guise of “satire.” It raised little ire. Das Spiegel (spelling?) I think it was.

    Maybe you can enlighten me about the Brazilian racism. Historically, while the two nations are rivals, there’s a solid respect there. Many Brazilians are of Italian decent (like Argentinians) and many play in Italy. Dunga is of, for the record, German-Italian heritage.

    As for the French, well, they’ve always had a thing or two to say about Italians. The French aren’t angels either.

    Then again, this is nothing new to Russian and Canadian hockey fans!