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The Beautiful Game

The sport of football is the celebration of improvisation. The English invented the game, and they called it football. Then through their Empire they spread it all over the globe. A ball landed in Brasil and improvisation took over the sport. One of my favorite auteurs of Joga Bonito is French by way of Algeria – Zinedine Zidane. Zizou – a genius with a football and a flawed human being, like the rest of us.

* To be accurate, football is organisation with improvisation. It is a blend of power and finesse. A semi-contact sport that requires spacial creativity, synchronisation, clear communication (often tacitly) and imaginative play.

Zinedine Zidane came out of retirement to lead his French team back to the World Cup Finals in 2006. He won the Golden Ball, or MVP award for the tournament. Then…Materazzi antagonised Zidane verbally and repeatedly pinched Zidane’s nipples (yeah, really invasive and annoying), as well as insulted Zidane’s mother (who was seriously ill at the time). The words “Go F*ck Yourself” in Italian (which Zidane knew how to speak from playing with Juventus) could have been accompanied by “I wish death on you and your whole family” and “You’re a son of a terrorist whore.” All of that building in the unseasonably humid (remember the 2006 summer heat?) atmosphere of a World Cup Final during the George W. Bush years when the “War on Terror” was raging in Iraq, and we were all just finding out that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction. There is no excuse for the headbutt, but there are reasons why it happened.

“After an exhaustive study of the match video, and with the help of an Italian translator, Rees claimed that Materazzi called Zidane ‘the son of a terrorist whore’ before adding ‘so just f*** off’ for good measure, supporting the natural assumption that the Frenchman must have been grievously insulted.

As the son of two Algerian immigrants, the 34-year-old is proud of his North African roots, dedicating France’s 1998 World Cup win to ‘all Algerians who are proud of their flag and all those who have made sacrifices for their family but who have never abandoned their own culture’, so such a slur would certainly explain, if not justify, his violent response.”

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