Repentant Zidane forgiven

2006-07-13 08:06

Paris - Retired France captain Zinedine Zidane can do no wrong according to his peers in the football world following his public apology on television for head-butting Italy's Marco Materazzi.

The 34-year-old great went on Canal+ and then TF1 TV stations in France to apologise to the world for losing his rag over jibes from the Italian centre-back in the World Cup final, which France lost on penalties.

But although Zidane punctuated his apology by claiming he did not regret his actions, the French football world has rounded in support of their iconic talisman.

"We can sense that he has been hurt because he could have had a golden send off if this incident had never happened," said former France coach Michel Hidalgo.

His former teammate from France's 1998 World Cup winning team, Bixente Lizarazu also said he must be pardoned.

"It was very important for him to explain himself, to say sorry," said Lizarazu.

Zidane himself called for the agitator, Materazzi, to be punished, complaining that while he deserved to be sent off for his reaction, it was unfair that the Italian escaped - albeit with a bruised chest - for his part in the sorry incident.

Even politicians spoke out in support of the midfielder of Algerian origin.

Minister of youth and sports Jean-Francois Lamour said: "I think Zidane said what we were waiting for. That is to say that he said sorry, particularly to children, teachers, volunteers who work every day to provide opportunities for the young."

Having not had the subject of race broached in his Canal+ interview, Zidane spoke at length about it to TF1.

Matezarri was rumoured to have made racial comments alluding to Zidane's Algerian heritage and Arab Muslim terrorism - claims refuted by both players - but it was the comments of Italian politician Roberto Calderoli that have most riled Zidane.

"Don't you think that the vice-president of the Italian senate saying that his team beat a team of blacks, islamists and communists is worse (than my head-butt)?" said Zidane.

"Don't you think that's serious? That shocked me. My gesture was shocking but for me that is worse. When you hear that, it hurts."

Sapa

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