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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Okay, more Zidane

Zidane is a man of gestures...in fact, he is a master of them...and it is well worth paying attention to the fine points of his conduct. Especially since we've got just one more match to savor his presence.

Yes, Zidane was mortal for the match with Portugal. (Of course, most of us would love being called "mortal" after scoring the winning goal in the semis of the World Cup.) I was left with these impressions after the match.

First, Zidane's grimacing smile in the Tunnel before the match. Is there anyone who can match this man for focus and composure?

Second, his little-remarked-upon open-armed...perhaps religious...gesture to the heavens after his successful Penalty Kick. It was a gesture that was gentle, ancient, quiet. It had an abscence of macho. (Click here and go to image #9...you'll see.)

Third, after the match Zidane did not simply trade jerseys with Figo, he donned Figo's sweat soaked jersey. In effect, this gesture said to the world "In the scale of human values, friendship has a higher rank than victory." What a profound statement.

Fourth, the way Zidane leaves the pitch. He is quiet, relieved, casual. He's a "family man" who's put in a days work and is focused on going home. That says something.

I would also say one thing that goes little noticed is the respect with which Zidane listens to and supports his teammates, in particular the back-line veterans Makelele and Thuram. If one pays attention, it's clear that Zidane listens to them and works with them as equals. Thuram, in my opinion, has played better than Cannavaro the last three matches and it will be fascinating to watch the battle of these two men on Sunday.

Finally, as for the PK itself.

Give Portuguese goal keeper Ricardo Pereira credit for guessing right and being the only goal keeper in World Cup history to stop three shots in a shoot out (against England.) But that being said, give Zidane credit for making an abbreviated approach and, despite that, curling an impossible-to-stop shot into the left inside of the net. Had Zidane taken a run like others, or curved his shot more conservatively...the story might easily have been different. Ricardo was almost up to the task. His hand just barely missed deflecting the ball.

The genius of a genius is that they make it look easy. The point is not that the Zidane is super human. It's the opposite. It what he does with his limitations that is astounding. On top of that, there is a deeper meaning to Zidane's game. I am convinced that Zidane's has his own quiet message about teamwork, friendship, and, even, diversity, multi-culturaism and race, that are there for those who choose to look.

In my lowly view, in addition to watching two great teams play in the final, we will all have the honor of watching Zinedine Zidane take the field one last time. Paying attention both to what he does and how he does it...has so far proven well worth the effort.

I have no doubt, regardless of the outcome of the match, that it will be the same on Sunday. Zidane is more than a footballer. He is a man worth watching.

In doubt of the above? Read this. And then read this.



  • having missed the '98 world cup in entirety, i have been blown away by zidane and the french team's graceful and generous soccer because i did not see it coming. i'm almost melancholy that the final game is coming up so soon.

    wearing figo's jersey like that was exactly the way that sports are supposed to be, tough competition and generous sportsmanship.

    allez les bleus!

    By Anonymous wu ming, at 1:57 AM  

  • I personally think you're reading a little too much into Zidane's guestural language, but I suppose you can't be faulted for adulating a bald man.

    By Blogger Brad Johnson, at 10:11 AM  

  • Okay, point well taken. Zidane is a model for us balding in our 20s and 30s men everywhere.


    At any rate, I still think, in addition to, hopefully, the great soccer, Sunday will provide a venue to watch the final match of a man who is a great ambassador for the game. A first class sportsman.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 12:05 PM  

  • Erk. Can't believe I misspelled "gestural".

    I can't wait for the final.

    By Blogger Brad Johnson, at 12:30 PM  

  • what do you say now after the final?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:24 PM  

  • Well, this is what I posted that day.

    At this point, reading the above post...it's pretty hilarious how I didn't take account of the full reality. Fwiw, Zidane is both "focused and composed"...and capable of what we saw on Sunday. Hell, even his headbutt was focused and composed...which is part of what made it so shocking.

    I don't think that Zidane's bad behaviour can be written off or written out of his story...it's part of him.

    So, two thoughts.

    First, I think Zidane has always been about controlling that rage and focusing it...in some way. On Sunday, at the end, he failed. In Britain they like to say..."In the end, he got the job done." That was not Zidane. The same motor that propelled him, came unhinged.

    Second, I think the "zone" out of which Zidane's brilliance came may well have been some kind of deeply personal "state" that he indulged. ie. Zidane believed that he could do impossible things...or that impossible things could flow out of him if he gave himself over to this state. His play, in my view, was based on a kind of "belief state" that gave him enormous confidence. In some ways, this meant he may have believed in his own myth.

    That belief led to that great header out of nowhere...and perhaps to a personal shock when it did not go in. To be in his last match, the last minutes of his career, and have some two bit "muscle" player deride him...well, it just set him off. At the same time...Zidane, perhaps believing his own myth, thought he could get away with a head butt...like Figo did.

    Perhaps, Zidane, on some level, did truly come unhinged, and it was not simply that he gave no thought to consequence...but that he believed that he operated without consequence. I don't know.

    His action ruined a great narrative. But that narrative was simplistic. "Good man...fairytale arc." If the above post had been written with an understanding of Zidane's darker complexities of his capacity to fall off the deep end...maybe it would not have been not too far off. Gesture, for good or ill, is still powerful.

    You see, Zidane failed as a man, as a sportsman and as an example on Sunday. But, in some ways, ever the master of intensity of gesture...he gave us a narrative that is even more complex and powerful....and, at the end of the day, frail.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 7:34 PM  

  • and the legend of zidane lives on...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:50 PM  

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