Zidane: Sorry, but no regrets

2006-07-12 20:38
Paris - French football icon Zinedine Zidane on Wednesday said he was sorry for head-butting an Italian opponent during the World Cup final against Italy.

But he said in a French television interview that defender Marco Materazzi had deserved it for insulting him with some "very hard words" aimed at sullying his mother and sister.

"I want to ask for forgiveness from all the children who watched that. There was no excuse for it," he said.

"I want to be open and honest about it because it was seen by two or three billion people watching on television and millions and millions of children were watching.

Asked what exactly Materazzi had said, Zidane would only offer that it was "very personal and concerned his mother and his sister."

"You hear those things once and you try to walk away. That's what I wanted to do because I am retiring. You hear it a second time and then a third time ..."

Zidane was not asked in the interview whether there was a racist tone to the insults.

The French skipper was sent-off for the head-butt to Materazzi's chest in the second period of extra-time in Sunday's final in Berlin.

Final game of his career

Italy went on to win the World Cup on penalties after the match had finished tied at 1-1 after extra-time.

While Italians celebrated their fourth World Cup crown, France and the rest of the world wondered just what had made the 34-year-old skipper and footballing genius act in the violent way he did in what was the final game of his career.

All agreed that Materazzi had insulted the Frenchman immediately prior to the head-butt but what he actually said has been mired in mystery.

Theories ranged from insults against Zidane's mother, sister and family to him being accused of being an Arab terrorist.

The Italian admits he traded insults in the heat of the exchanges but denied either calling Zidane a terrorist or saying something crude about his mother.

Zidane had been silent over what had made him lose his cool until Wednesday's delayed broadcast interview with popular Canal + television sports presenter Michel Denisot.

He said that while he was sorry for all that had happened, he had no regrets about retaliating against Materazzi.

"I can't say I have any regrets about what I did because that would be like admitting that he had every reason to say what he said." said Zidane.

"I can't, repeat can't say that. He had no reason to say what he said. It's always the reaction that is sanctioned and not the provoker."

Without any major incidents

Zidane said that the final had been without any major incidents between the two teams up until his dramatic clash with Materazzi when the Italian had tugged at his shirt.

"I told him to stop pulling my shirt and that he could have it if he wanted at the end of the match," he said.

"That was when words were said, very hard words and he said them several times.

"Words can sometimes be harder than actions. It all went very quickly and they were words that hurt me deep down.

"The real culprit should be sanctioned and the real culprit is him. He provoked it all.

"Do you imagine that in a World Cup final like that with just 10 minutes to go to the end of my career, I am going to do something like that because it gives me pleasure?"

World football's governing body Fifa has launched an investigation into what happened and its chief Sepp Blatter said on Wednesday that Zidane could lose his award as best player of the tournament.

Zidane denied Materazzi called him an Islamic "terrorist", as was reported by a Paris-based anti-racism group.

Zidane is of Algerian origin, his parents being born in the village of Aguemone in the Kabylie region.

Fifa decided on Tuesday to open a disciplinary investigation to clarify the circumstances surrounding the incident and Sepp Blatter, the chairman of the soccer's ruling body, hinted that Zidane could be stripped of the tournament's best player award. - Sapa-AFP

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