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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Zidane - victim or villain?
By John May

Zidane and Materazzi will both plead their cases
All rise in the people's court of football fairness to hear the case of Zidane v Materazzi.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, your task is to decide who is the guilty party, and who is the victim.

You will hear evidence from both sides. There is an impressive array of character witnesses forming behind Zidane, while perhaps surprisingly for someone who was the victim of a vicious assault, support for Materazzi is thin.

Does that mark out the real villain, or is it more a case of Zidane getting his retaliation in first?

Zidane is beginning to emerge from this episode with his reputation not only intact, but enhanced. The last villain to enjoy such a good press was Robin Hood.

Considering his act of folly handicapped his team as effectively as tying their legs together, France has cast Zizou in the role of Prodigal Son.

THE CASE FOR ZIDANE

Defence for Zidane would like to call the following witnesses:

The French People: A poll conducted by Le Parisien newspaper showed that 62% had forgiven Zidane, and thought that he had been provoked into action.

Former team-mate Bixente Lizarazu: "It is good that he spoke of provocation and I think you have to punish both players, the agitator as well as the reactor."

Zinedine Zidane accepts the applause after scoring
The Divine Zizou has been forgiven by most Frenchmen

Alain Giresse, (one third of the famous "Three Musketeers" French midfield): "We know he is someone very humble, who is calm but has a fiery side.

"He has to be good, humble, smiley and handsome - perfect basically. We ask footballers to have every quality in the world."

French minister of youth and sports Jean-Francois Lamour: "Zidane said sorry, particularly to children, teachers, volunteers who work every day to provide opportunities for the young."

Former France manager Michel Hidalgo: "He was touching, dignified and human in the television interview. We have made him into a god, we have canonised him but above all he is a man, and a man is fragile and breakable.

"He isn't the god of football, or Zorro." Quite right Michel, Zorro wore a mask.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, nobody is more attuned to public opinion as marketing and public relations people, and while one or two of Kate Moss's companies dropped her like a hot brick, all of Zidane's sponsors have backed him to the hilt.

As far as they are concerned the king has come down from the mountain, and like the rest of us, he sweats, swears and has human foibles.

Zinedine Zidane gives his first interview following his dismissal
"It was like this..." Zidane explains his actions
Zidane has been Adidas's ambassador for 10 years and they say: "He can stay as long as he wishes."

Insurance company Generali France are happy with Zidane, and to show that a little notoriety never did anyone any harm, France Telecom has renewed his contract.

Jacques Segeula of advertising group Havas: "This isn't going to harm him. This childish gesture gives a more human image of the hero. It brings the icon closer to the people."

THE CASE FOR MATERAZZI

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, Zidane's act against Materazzi is not an isolated incident. This is a man with previous form.

Zidane's defence is to portray Mr Materazzi as the villain, an agent provocateur who skilfully exploited a known flaw in Zidane's character, his short fuse.

You will recall Zidane's dismissal in the 1998 World Cup when he stamped on Saudi Arabia captain Fuad Amin, and he also received a five-match ban for headbutting an opponent while playing in Italy for Juventus. He is not a goodie-deux-chaussures.

Let us call those who testify against Zidane.

Giuseppe Materazzi (father): "Marco had to endure a provocation. This sort of thing has happened to him in the last two years. He has taken a lot in the last two years, and people will testify to the things he has had to suffer."

Marco Materazzi in joyful mood
Materazzi has reason to celebrate

Claudio Vigorelli (Materazzi's agent): "I've known Marco for a long time and I don't think he is capable of provoking a player, he is a good boy."

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon: "I saw the incident afterwards on TV.

"It was an ugly reaction but in football sometimes these things can happen. However, this is not the first time Zidane has done something like this."

Italy team-mate Alessandro del Piero: "I don't know what happened but it could be Materazzi was provoked."

French right-wing newspaper Minute: "Goodbye, lout."

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. We present the evidence.

Is Zinedine Zidane guilty of an act of violence that has no place on a football field no matter what the provocation?

Or is he simply a human being, who erred on being pushed to the limit by provocation?

What of Marco Materazzi? Is he a cunning, calculating cad who played on Zidane's sensibilities like a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo?

Or was he the recipient of a stoved-in sternum, courtesy of a touchy, arrogant dilettante who blew his stack at little more than a playground taunt.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, you decide.

SEE ALSO
France team guide
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25 May 06 |  Schedule
Have your say on the World Cup
28 Apr 06 |  Football
BBC World Cup coverage
27 Apr 06 |  BBC coverage
Zidane blames Materazzi insults
10 Jul 06 |  France
Zidane explains
12 Jul 06 |  France
Mad Materazzi
11 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Zidane the flawed genius
10 Jul 06 |  France
How rife is taunting in football?
11 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
How will Zidane be remembered?
11 Jul 06 |  Talking Point
Sent-off Zidane named best player
10 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Trezeguet rallies behind Zidane
11 Jul 06 |  France
Zidane off as Italy win World Cup
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Zidane's red mist
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006


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