Thursday, August 10, 2006


Soccer's World Cup-The Aftermath

The dust has settled. The world’s greatest soccer players have returned to their homelands, or to their teams. There is not much red wine available in Italy today, as the celebration continues following the victory over France.

The French are in mourning. To come so close, to come away with second place. A bitter pill to swallow.

There are many reasons why The Marseillaise was not played following the game---but the finger is being pointed at one player---Zinedine Zidane. And rightly so.

With little time remaining in the final game, with the score tied and all the chips on the line, “Zizou”, as he is affectionately known, lost control and headbutted one of the French defenders.

He was shown the red card, kicked out of the game, and banished to the showers.

The French completed the extra time, one man short, and lost the game on penalty kicks. Game, set, match.

Without doubt, Zidane’s actions led directly to his country’s defeat. Thus, the question that begs explanation from all soccer fans. “Why?”

Algerian Roots

Much of the explanation stems from the colonial policies of the European nations, The early explorers traveled the world, and plunked down their flags wherever they went---North and South America, Asia, Africa, Australia. No matter where they went, no matter who was living there, it was claimed by the Europeans.

Such was the case in Africa, and particularly in Algeria. In the early 1800s, Algerian Muslim soldiers served in large numbers in the “African Army”. They fought in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, and in the First World War in 1914-1918. They fought for their country, at that time---France. These Muslim soldiers came from all tribes, from all areas of Algeria.

French colonial soldiers, including those in the French Foreign Legion, were required to fight throughout the world. They were involved in the conflict in Vietnam, the Indo-China War, against Ho Chi Minh---long before the Americans arrived.

Zinedine Zidane’s family came from the village of Aguemone, in the Kabylie region of the country. They were of Berber origin.

Civil War

In 1854, several groups of Algerians decided that they wanted to govern themselves. Thus began the Algerian War of Independence---a period of horrific fighting, guerrilla warfare, terrorism against civilians on both sides of the conflict.

The war lasted until 1962, but left permanent scars on French society. Kidnapping was commonplace. Half of the French army of 400 000 soldiers involved in the war in 1956 were Muslim Algerians.

The French army also recruited and trained bands of local Muslim irregulars---and armed them with shotguns. They fought against the revolutionary Algerians, in guerrilla warfare. There were 150 000 of these irregulars who fought with the French. They were called “Harkis”.

On July 3, 1962, Charles de Gaulle pronounced Algeria to be an independent country. The war was over, the Algerians had gained their freedom. This posed a great danger for the harkis, and for French citizens who had been in Algeria for centuries. In just a few months following the war, more than a million escaped the country, most heading across the Mediterranean for Southern France.

The Harkis were seen as traitors by many Algerians. French historians estimate between 50 000 and 150 000 harkis were killed by Algerian Independence troops, or by lynch mobs immediately following the war.

Zidane’s parents fled from Algeria with this group. They settled near Marseilles, with other destitute Algerians in a “restrictive camp”. They were poorly treated by the French government.

Zidane has always angrily denied that his parents were harkis.

The Early Years

Life was difficult for Zidane, and for the rest of the Algerians. Essentially, they were treated as second class citizens in France. They were constantly harassed by the authorities on the streets, in the schools.

By the time he was fourteen, Zidane was recognized as a talent. He had previously played for Saint-Henri, a local club in the La Castillane district of Marseilles. He moved on to Septimes Sports Olympiques. While at the sport regional centre in Aix-en-Provence, he was spotted by Jean Varraud, a recruiter for the Cannes soccer club.

He was supposed to stay in Cannes for six weeks, but spent four years there. He moved on to Bordeaux for four years, to Juventus in Italy for five years, and ended his career with Real Madrid in Spain. The transfer fee to Real from Juventus was more than one hundred million dollars, the highest in soccer history---also the highest in sports history.

The World Cup-2006

There has been much discussion regarding Zidane’s loss of control in Germany. The tape has been analyzed, lip readers have been consulted. Both Zidane and his Italian counterpart were extensively interviewed, and punished following the game.

The exact nature of the taunts has never been determined. But Marco Materazzi certainly found the words to put Zidane over the top---to make him lose his cool.

Zidane stated after the game that Materazzi had “seriously insulted his mother and his sister”. But that kind of harassment goes on continuously in all sports, at every level.

Materazzi must have dialed Zidane in a spiteful, personal manner---more than likely in reference to his race, to his religion, to his Algerian ancestry.

Zidane was selected as the Most Valuable Player at the World Cup.

There is no doubt that he would give up that award to relive that one instant, that moment of infamy, when he lost control and handed the Italians the World Cup.

James Hurst

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