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                                       politics + culture

Monday, July 10, 2006

Zidane again

Someone asked me how I can speak for this post...after the final.

Here's what I had to say:

At this point, reading that post...it's hilarious and clear how I didn't take account of the full reality. Yes, Zidane is both "focused and composed"...but he is also capable of the violence 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 the story...it's part of him and part of the history of this World Cup.

So, I have two thoughts.

First, I think Zidane's performance has always been about controlling that rage and focusing it...in one way or another. It was, most of the time, a beautiful thing to behold. On Sunday, at the end, he failed. The British like to say of football players..."In the end, he got the job done." That was not Zidane in the Final. The same motor that propelled him proved to be his undoing.

Second, I think the "zone" out of which Zidane's football brilliance came was likely some kind of deeply personal "state" that he indulged and called upon. 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...and, in fact, he was gifted enough to actually do them. Zidane's play was perhaps based on a kind of "belief state" that gave him enormous confidence.

In some ways, this meant that Zidane believed in his own myth, he had to.

That zone state led to that fantastic header on goal out of nowhere in the first overtime period...and perhaps to Zidane's personal shock when it did not go in. That state also had perils. To be in his last match, the last minutes of his career, and to have some a "muscle" player deride him...well, it set him off.

Zidane, believing his own myth, thought he could get away with a head butt in revenge...like Figo did. Or it is possible that Zidane, on some level, did truly come unhinged, and it was not simply that he gave no thought to consequence...but that he believed, deep in his own mythos, that he operated without consequence. I don't know.

His action, as Roger Cohen notes, ruined a great narrative. But that narrative was simplistic. "Zidane, the good man whose career took a fairytale arc." I feel that if my earlier post had been written with an understanding of Zidane's inner complexities, if it had been written with a notion of Zidane's struggle with his own daemons...then maybe I would have avoided beatfication and still pointed in the right direction.

Gesture, for good or ill, is still a powerful tool for understanding...and Zidane was worth watching on Sunday. He was unforgettable.

Watching him walk off the field past the Cup Trophy was something out of myth.

You see, Zidane failed as a man, as a teammate, and as an example on Sunday. However, ever the master of the intensity of gesture...Zidane in that moment sealed a narrative that is complex and disturbing...and, at the end of the day, frail.



  • I don't know soccer that well but it did strike me that Zidane's header in the first OT was pretty remarkable -- certainly the most memorable thing in the second half of the game.

    Athletes do crazy (violent) things and occassionally (though not as often) the best or greatest athletes do these kind of things. Maybe even in a championship. What strikes me, though, as completely unprecedented about the event on Sunday isn't primarily the headbutt, or that it was a great player doing it, or that it was in the World Cup, or in the second overtime: but that it was in the (last ten mintues of the) last game that Zidane would ever play.

    The narrative that this falls into is an extremely powerful one -- the narrative of retirement essentially. The weird moment where you honor somebody who's still with you in terms of a past that is about to come. It's a narrative literally of memorializiation itself.

    Where can we look to find someone else with such respect and power actig in this kind of moment in such a shocking, inexplicable way? Only one example comes immediately to my mind.


    Good my liege,--


    Peace, Kent!
    Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
    I loved her most, and thought to set my rest
    On her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight!
    So be my grave my peace, as here I give
    Her father's heart from her! Call France; who stirs?

    By Blogger awol, at 7:39 AM  

  • Violence is the reason for humanity's survival.

    Violent words are the actions of a coward.

    Violence is called protection, when it is used in defense of an offense.

    And when adrenaline is pumping in your veins, the pressure is high and your mom is in the hospital, let me see an honourable man who would not retaliate to defend the honour of his heritage with actions as opposed to dirty insults that Italian soccer players so often use.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:07 PM  

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