Zidane’s Cheap Shot Heard ‘Round the World?

French soccer superstar Zinedine Zidane gave an amazing performance in the 1998 FIFA Men’s World Cup championship game to win France’s first ever FIFA Men’s World Cup. It even inspired the Chicago Tribune to call him "the best thing to happen to France since fermentation". Now in 2006, with France and Zidane returning to the FIFA Men’s World Cup championship game, and in overtime of a tied game, Zidane — playing in his last international game — viciously head-butted Italian soccer player Marco Materazzi right in the chest. Zidane was red-carded out of the game, France wound up losing the game and the championship, and Zidane is now the subject of a FIFA investigation into the incident. Sports columnist Dave Zirin offers the hypothesis in his Edge of Sports column this week that Zidane reacted as he did because of racism. Some evidence is emerging that Materazzi had taunted the son-of-Algerian-immigrants Zidane with some racist remark or remarks. Some others are also rallying to Zidane’s defense, but for different reasons. My personal feeling is — I think that Zidane should not just stand idly by to such racist comments, if indeed that’s what the provocation was, but I just think that he should have beaten any racist punks on the field and in the game (France could well have, and came very close to doing so), rather than reacting as he did. Even if racism wasn’t a factor in the head-butt, that doesn’t mean that things are peachy-keen for soccer and soccer fans. As Dave Zirin says — "Racism will be the death of soccer if things don’t change."

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