FIFA report omits Zidane’s moment of madness

LONDON: Maybe Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt in the World Cup final never happened after all. 

The unforgettable moment in football’s biggest match came when the France captain, in his final game before retiring, reacted to something Marco Materazzi said by planting his head firmly into the Italian’s chest. 

Because the ball was further down the field, few among the 69,000 fans in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium saw the incident and were amazed when Zidane was sent off. 

FIFA, it seems, didn’t see it at all. There’s certainly no mention of the incident in the official World Cup 2006 technical report. 

Even the outline of the final makes no mention of it. It’s not even noted that Zidane was ejected – in the final match of his career! 

Even in retirement, Zidane was suspended for three games and fined for the outburst. Before he considers suing FIFA, there may be reasons why the governing body didn’t include details of the incident in its report. 

Zidane’s ejection for an act of blatant violence provided a shameful end to a championship that FIFA had lauded as one of the best ever. Maybe they didn’t want it to take the shine off an otherwise glowing report. 

The 2006 World Cup was widely acclaimed as well organised by the host Germans, despite pre-championship fears about ticketing and security. 

There were standout goals and saves and some top quality performances in the early stages of the competition. Although the big names faded in the second half and Brazil, Argentina, Spain and England went home earlier than expected, FIFA believed it had plenty of reasons to give the World Cup top marks. 

The final stages of the last game was 110 minutes old, deep into extra time, with the game labouring toward a penalty shootout when the Zidane-Materazzi flare-up happened and the Frenchman was shown a red card. 

As the three-time FIFA Player of the Year walked past the World Cup trophy, the smiles of satisfaction disappeared from the faces of Sepp Blatter and his FIFA colleagues. 

They knew that the 2006 World Cup – which has the letters “FIFA” at the head of its official title – would forever be known as the competition where one of the greatest players the game has ever seen ended his career by head-butting an opponent. 

When the official report came out six months later, Blatter, UEFA president Lennart Johansson and Local Organising Committee chairman Frank Beckenbauer all wrote forewords to the document without making reference to Zidane’s head butt or even his ejection. 

While rightly praising the organisational skills of the Germans, the report skipped over some glaring errors by some of the referees – like England’s Graham Poll, who showed three yellow cards to one player before finally ejecting him. 

To its credit, the report criticised players and coaches for the increasing practice of feigning injuries as a tactical ploy. It lamented that some of the rising young stars made no impact at the World Cup and the fact that Asian and African nations didn’t fulfil the promise they had shown in previous World Cups. 

But it simply ignored the tournament’s single biggest moment. 

The World Cup was an organisational triumph. Too bad that Zidane didn’t stay around for the finish. – AP  

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