Few could believe it when two years ago Zinedine Zidane capped off his final footballing swan-song by head-butting Italy’s Marco Materazzi and getting sent off in the World Cup Final. For the great ZZ, the tournament had been a dazzling goodbye and the midfield genius looked revitalised in what everyone thought was the weakest French side in years. Then, just as he looked set to bid an emotional farewell to the game, he seemed to snap, and totally uncharacteristically lash out with quite a brutal attack on the Italian defender.
The next day his motivation all seemed pretty clear as that bastion of journalistic integrity and crusader for the truth, the Daily Star, published the insult that had provoked the head-butt: “Your mum is a terrorist whore.” ZZ is of course of Algerian descent originally, so it seemed that the race card was pretty understandable provocation, and not surprising from an Italian. Late last night however a court ruled in favour of Materazzi, ordering the Star to publish a public acknowledgement that they had just made it all up.
Their statement reads:
“We now accept that Mr Materazzi did not say anything of a racist nature nor use the description of Zidane's mother such as to goad the Frenchman. We apologise to Mr Materazzi for the distress and embarrassment caused by our allegations. We have agreed to pay him damages and his legal costs.”
So we’re back to square one then, and the mystery deepens since ZZ has never specified what was said to him. It begs the question of just how insulting could Materazzi have actually been though, and surely in his extensive playing career Zidane would’ve heard literally every cuss under the sun? There’s only so many times you can take offense at “Your mum sucks such-and-such,” or “Your wife’s a dirty such-and-such” before it just becomes white noise. The Italian’s side of the story is the following:
“I was tugging his shirt, he said to me 'If you want my shirt so much I'll give it to you afterwards,' and I answered that I'd prefer his sister.”
Pretty reasonable banter then, and nowhere near the red-flag-to-a-bull first propositioned by the Star. It looks like this is one that will have to be confined to the annals of history then, filed alongside who shot JFK and where those missing Florida votes went, preserved for an aspiring Mulder/Scully to crack.