Zinédine Zidane (born 1972) was the toast of France after leading that country to its only World Cup soccer championship in 1998. The midfielder, nicknamed "Zizou," scored twice in the championship match that year as the French, playing at home, defeated Brazil.
Amid the soccer euphoria, Zidane, a devout Muslim born to Algerian immigrants, was also embraced as an ethnic unifier. But Zidane left the game in disgrace in 2006. With France back in the World Cup final, Zidane, in what he said would be his final game, was ejected from the title match for a head butt during overtime. The French, without Zidane for the shootout, lost to Italy. "Zinédine Zidane has written glorious chapters in football's recent history—how sad that he should save the most shameful episode for the final page of his story," Phil McNulty wrote on the British Broadcasting Corporation's website, BBC Sport.
Zidane was the fifth child of Smail and Malika Zidane. His parents arrived in France from the Kabylie region of northern Algeria in 1953. Zidane grew up in La Castellane, a crime-ridden housing development in Marseille, a port city in the south of France. Unemployment and suicide rates are alarmingly high in La Castellane. His father had steady work as an overnight department store watchman, though the family had to live in tight quarters—not all seven could sit down together and eat.
As a youth, Zidane played soccer games in Place Tartane, the public square in La Castellane. At age 14 he was a ballboy during a France-Portugal European Cup playoff game at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. At age 13, Zidane signed with the Cannes club team at the junior level. He made the elite squad at 17; at age 19, Zidane scored his first goal at that level and the club president fulfilled his promise to him—he gave Zidane a car, a red Clio.
In the early 1990s Zidane signed with Bordeaux and his play there caught the attention of the elite Italian team Juventus of Turin. With Zidane in the fold, Juventus won five championships—including international events—in three years. In Turin, Zidane played for Marcello Lippi, who would later coach Italy to victory in the 2006 World Cup title match against Zidane's France. Back home, however, Zidane had trouble pleasing the French media, which called him le chat noir (the black cat). They accused him of playing poorly in consequential games, such as the Champions League, which features the top club teams throughout Europe.
Zidane, though, remained popular in Marseille, where he would return during his breaks from soccer. "He knows everyone at La Castellane," Philippe Jerome wrote in the London Guardian. "When he comes, we sit on a bench and talk about everything. He has remained very unassuming," longtime friend Richard Mendi told Jerome. His status also "gave a strong sense of pride to many North Africans in France [known as Maghrebs]," Jasey Dasey said on ESPNStar.com.
Cup Victory Captivated France
In his first international game, Zidane entered as a substitute and scored both goals as the French tied the Czech Republic, 2-2. "It was soon clear that Zidane, wityh his immaculate dribbling and passing skills, was the midfield general that France [was] looking for to fill the boots of the long-retired Michel Platini," Dasey said. France missed the World Cup final round in 1994, but was building for 1998, when it would host the quadrennial event for the first time in 60 years.
France breezed through the first round, defeating South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Denmark. Zidane, however, was suspended for two games for scraping his cleats against the back of Saudi captain Fuad Amin. He missed his country's one-goal victories over Denmark and Paraguay but returned to score a penalty kick during a shootout in which France outlasted Italy to reach the semifinals. The French edged Croatia 2-1 in the semis to reach their first-ever title match, against defending champion Brazil.
Zidane, normally a playmaker, became scorer in the final. He connected in the 27th and 46th minutes, both on picturesque headers. Emmanuel Petit fed him from the left corner on the first goal, and Youri Djorkaeff set him up from the right side on the second. Petit scored a breakaway goal near the end of the game to finish off Brazil. The victory on July 12—two days before Bastille Day, the national holiday—set off bedlam in the Stade de France and the celebration spilled into the streets of Paris and other communities.
Seen as Ethnic Unifier
While France celebrated the World Cup victory, many observers took note of the multi-ethnic nature of the team at a time of racial strife. "I had never seen French people so happy with each other," Nick Fraser wrote in London's Guardian. "As I walked around the crowds, however, I noticed something else. There were many Arabs and blacks in the crowd, and many of them were carrying tricolor flags."
During the mid-1990s, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far right president of the National Front party, known for his staunch anti-immigration stance, railed at the French squad for its inability to sing the national anthem, the Marseillaise. The team was snidely called "noir, blanc et bleu" (black, white and blue)," because many players were not strictly French. Zidane, with Algerian parents, was from a dilapidated section of Marseille; other top players such as Patrick Thierry, Marcel Desailly, and Berbard Diomede were black. Fraser said Le Pen and other political leaders had "indiscriminately fanned the flames of disgruntlement." Le Pen, however, as did French President Jacques Chirac, joined in the celebration and spoke of national unity immediately after the World Cup triumph.
As the World Cup celebration and the national holiday blended into one, the Arab presence was noteworthy on the streets of Paris. Soccer fan Rabah Khedache, whose parents emigrated from Algeria's Kabylie region, thanked Zidane "for everything he has done for out [Kabylie] people," according to Lara Marlowe in the Irish Times. "It is stunning to hear blond, blue-eyed French school children telling reporters that the shy, balding, darker-skinned Zidane is the most handsome man in France, that they would like to have him as their father," Marlowe wrote. At a garden party in the Elysée palace, in the presence of Chirac, crowds chanted "Zizou president."
Named Top Player Three Times
Zidane earned player of the year honors in 1998 from Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, the governing body of world soccer. He earned the same honor in 2000 and 2003. France won the Euro 2000 tournament, defeating Italy in the final. In 2001 Zidane signed a four-year contract with the Real Madrid team of Spain. The transfer fee of €66 million ($86 million) was the highest ever at the time. Zidane in 2002 scored the winning goal, as Real Madrid beat Bayer Leverkusen of Germany in the title match of the Champions League, a tournament involving the top club teams in Europe. He announced his retirement in 2004, but returned to international soccer a year later.
One month before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Zidane said the tournament would be his last and that he would stay retired. Zidane "has tended to do things his own way," Dasey wrote. "He's always unique and often surprising."
Career Ended in Disgrace
France advanced past group play in the 2006 World Cup with a victory and two draws. Zidane scored the insurance goal as the French, after falling behind early, defeated Spain 3-1 in the round of 16. His perfectly placed free kick set up Thierry Henry's goal in the 57th minute as Les Bleus defeated Brazil in the quarterfinals, 1-0. Some observers had pegged Brazil as the pre-tournament favorite. Zidane's first-half penalty kick was enough for a 1-0 triumph over Portugal in the semifinals and the French were back in the title match, paired against three-time champion Italy on Sunday, July 9, 2006, at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
In the seventh minute of play, Zidane put France up 1-0, chipping a penalty kick off the crossbar and into the net behind Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Twelve minutes later, Marco Materazzi evened the score, heading a shot past French goalie Fabien Barthez. The teams remained even, and went into overtime.
At the 110th minute, or the 20th minute of overtime, Zidane lost his composure in "a moment of madness which cost him a second World Cup title," Jonathan Stevenson wrote on BBC Sport. Angry after an exchange with Materazzi—Matt Hughes of the Times Online reported that Materazzi had called Zidane "the son of a terrorist whore"—Zidane headbutted the Italian defender in the chest. Referee Horacio Marcelo Elizondo of Argentina ejected Zidane after the assistant referee informed him of the incident. The French played the rest of overtime without Zidane, but more important, their star was unavailable for the penalty kick shootout necessary to determine the winner. Italy won the shootout 5-3.
"It was a calamity on all levels for Zidane and France," McNulty wrote. "And whatever words or actions of provocation Materazzi may have offered Zidane, his reaction was simply inexcusable…. France lost a talisman, a leader and a man who may have won them the World Cup—and they even lost their most reliable penalty [kick] taker in the shootout." He added, "It was not meant to end like this for one of the game's legendary figures—sent from the world's biggest stage in shame and into retirement."
Won Golden Ball, Anyway
In another odd twist to the bizarre denouement in Berlin, Zidane the following day received the Golden Ball as best player in the tournament, edging Italian defender Fabio in the balloting. Most journalists covering the match had cast their votes by halftime. Ironically, Zidane did not win the award in 1998, when he led France to its World Cup victory—Ronaldo of runner-up Brazil took the prize. "The vast majority of those votes were cast by journalists before the final was over and I'm sure that is why Zidane has come out [on] top," BBC correspondent Gordon Fahrquar told BBC Radio Live Five, according to the British news agency's website. But it's going to be a bit embarrassing for FIFA…. If you'd asked the 2,012 journalists—who voted for him—after the game whether they wanted to change their vote, they probably would have."
French Coach Raymond Domenech defended Zidane, saying Italy and other opponents engaged in rough play against him. "When one has to put up with what Zidane had to and the referee doesn't do anything, one understands. You can't excuse it, but you can understand it," he said, according to BBC Sport. The incident surprised Franz Beckenbauer, who led West Germany to the 1974 World Cup championships and is president of the prominent German club team Bayern Munich. "Something must have been said to Zidane. He is actually a reserved and inoffensive person," Beckenbauer said in BBC Sport.
Zidane's wife, Véronique, a former model, is a Frenchwoman of Spanish descent. They have four children: Enzo, Luca, Theo, and Elyas. Zidane became Christian Dior's first male model ever. Zidane, who has promoted ethnic tolerance in his visits throughout Europe, visited Algeria late in 2006. In his first visit to the former French colony since 1986, Zidane spent nearly a week in Aguemoun, the village where his parents grew up.
Guardian (London, England), July 15, 1998.
Irish Times, July 15, 1998.
"France 1998," FIFA World Cup Germany 2006, http://www.fifaworldcup.yahoo.com/06/en/p/pwc/1998.html (December 7, 2006).
"From A to Z: The Zeal of Zizou," ESPNStar.com, http://www.espnstar.com/studio/studio_coldetail_1676927.html (December 13, 2006).
"Italy 1, France 1 (aet)," BBCSport, July 9, 2006, http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2006/4991652.stm (December 1, 2006).
"Reaction to Zidane's Sending Off," BBCSport, July 10, 2006, http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2006/teams/france/5152728.stm (December 1, 2006).
"Read My Lips: The Taunt That Made Zidane Snap," Times Online, July 11, 2006, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,30249-2263995,00.html (December 14, 2006).
"Sent-Off Zidane Named Best Player," BBCSport, July 10, 2006, http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2006/5154248.stm (December 1, 2006).
"Vive la France," World Cup 1998 (France)," CNNSI.com, December 1, 1998, http://www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/soccer/world/events/1998/worldcup/ (December 14, 2006).
"World Cup 1998 (France)," 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan, http://www.worldcup.espnsoccernet.com/story?id=203643 (December 7, 2006).
"Zidane's Red Mist," BBCSport, July 9, 2006, http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2006/5163528.stm (December 1, 2006).
"Zinédine Zidane," Biography Resource Center, http://www.galenet.galegroup.com (December 1, 2006).
French soccer player
French soccer superstar Zinedine Zidane, "Zizou" to his fans, is a hero for the international age. Born in France of Algerian parents, Zidane has led the French national team and professional teams in Italy and in Spain to soccer championships. His impact on the culture of his native France, where immigrants-especially North African ones-and their children are often treated with distrust or outright hostility, has been particularly profound.
Yazid Zidane, as Zinedine Zidane was known as a child, was one of five children born to Smail and Malika Zidane, Algerian immigrants who came to France in 1953. The family lived in the La Castellane housing project, which is notorious throughout Marseille for its high crime rate. Zinedine Zidane's father had a steady job, as an overnight security guard in a department store, so they lived a reasonably comfortable life compared to many of their neighbors. Still, the family's apartment was so small that all seven of them could not sit down to eat at the same time.
By the time he was five, Zidane was joining in the soccer games that the neighborhood's children play on the Place Tartane, an 80-by-12-yard plaza that serves as the main square of La Castellane. When he was a little older he began playing with a club, US Saint-Henri, in Marseille. His next step was the Septemes Sports Olympiques, where he began playing before the age of 11. In 1984 Zidane earned the job of ball boy at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, for a semifinal game in the European Cup between France, the winner, and Portugal.
Unlike in North America, France has a large system of professional soccer teams for children under the age of 19. Promising young players often join these teams very young, and Zidane was no exception: he left Marseille to
join the Cannes junior soccer team at the age of 13. The Cannes adult team was a prestigious, First Division team at that time, and Zidane began playing in First Division games with them when he was 17. In 1991, at the age of 18, he scored his first goal in a First Division game. As the president of the Cannes club had promised, he gave Zidane a car, a red Clio, for scoring that first goal.
The Cannes club had a good season that year, finishing fourth in the rankings and qualifying for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Cup, but in 1992 the team finished so poorly that they were relegated to the Second Division. Zidane and his wife, Veronique, moved to Bordeaux and Zidane joined their club. Zidane played for Bordeaux for four seasons. The Bordeaux club was a solid if not an outstanding team in those years. They qualified for the UEFA Cup every year, and in 1996 they made it all the way to the finals, where they lost to Bayern Munich in two games.
Zidane's performance in Bordeaux brought him to the attention of an Italian team, Juventus of Turin, which recruited him after the 1995-96 season. With this team, Zidane would finally become a champion. Under his leadership Juventus won five titles in the next three years. In 1998 Zidane's role in these victories was honored with two prestigious awards: the Golden Ball and the "Player of the Year" designation by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). As these judges and others have noticed, Zidane has outstanding ball-handling skills. He can spin 360 degrees while balancing the soccer ball on top of his foot, a maneuver that he often uses in games to avoid a tackler.
Zidane also became a hero in France for helping to lead the French national team to victory in the World Cup in 1998, for the first time in 68 years, and the Euro Cup in 2000. His success was especially important to other Beurs, as second-generation North Africans are called in France. Zidane is one of the only Beurs to be widely visible in French culture, which is often hostile to Arab and other immigrants, and he is by far the most successful one. Zidane's influence has encouraged thousands of young French Arabs to join soccer teams, and Zidane even sponsors a team in his old neighborhood of La Castellane himself.
In 1999 Zidane became arguably the sexiest man in France when he became Christian Dior's first male model. To the very happily married Zidane (he kisses his wedding ring as he steps onto the field at the beginning of each match as a gesture of love to his wife and their two sons), the sack loads of fan mail he receives from women who appreciate his good looks and athletic prowess have become a source of consternation. As John Lichfield reported in the Independent, "'Some say they are in love with me,' he told an interviewer, with touching confusion, as if he was expected to reciprocate in some way. 'But I'm married.'"
|1972||Born June 3 in Marseille, France|
|1986||Joins the Cannes junior team|
|1989||Plays in his first First Division soccer game|
|1991||Scores first goal in a First Division soccer game|
|1992||Signs a four-year contract with the Bordeaux team|
|1994||Begins playing for the French national team|
|1996||Bordeaux makes it the to Union of European Football Associations Cup finals|
|1996||Signed by Juventus of Turin|
|1999||Becomes Christian Dior's first male model|
|2001||Signs a record four-year, $68.6 million contract with Real Madrid|
Another Club, Another Country
Zidane became the best-paid soccer player in history on June 9, 2001, when he signed a $68.6 million, four-year contract with Real Madrid, one of the strongest clubs in the history of European soccer. He was given the number five jersey, the number that had, until he retired at the end of the 2000-01 season, belonged to Real Madrid's star Manuel Sanchez for 18 years. Real Madrid's fans expected the same level of stardom out of Zidane, and he did not disappoint them. Less than a year after joining the team Zidane scored the goal that won the 2002 European Cup for Real Madrid with only seconds remaining in the final match. This was Real Madrid's ninth victory in that tournament, a record, and their win filled in a large hole in Zidane's résumé: despite his success in other venues, up till this point, Zidane had not yet won a European Cup. Fans can only hope that Zidane will continue to perform as well for the rest of his time in Madrid.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1996||European Super Cup (with Juventus of Turin)|
|1996||European/South American Cup (with Juventus)|
|1997||League Super Cup (with Juventus)|
|1997-98||Italy Champion (with Juventus)|
|1998||World Cup (with French national team)|
|1998||Awarded the Golden Ball|
|1998, 2000||Named the Player of the Year by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association|
|2000||Euro Cup (with French national team)|
|2001||Spanish Super Cup (with Real Madrid)|
|2002||Champions League (with Real Madrid)|
|2002||Named Most Valuable Player of the 2001-02 Champions League|
|2002||European Super Cup (with Real Madrid)|
|2002||European/South American Intercontinental Cup (with Real Madrid)|
SELECTED WRITINGS BY ZIDANE:
(With Dan Franck) Zidane: le roman d'une victoire. Pocket, 2000.
Lichfield, John. "In the Footsteps of Zidane." Independent (London; May 24, 2002): 4.
——. "A Striking French Icon: Profile: Zinedine Zidane." Independent (London, England) (July 1, 2000): 5.
Saporito, Bill. "Zidane Makes the French Connection: Can the World's Most Expensive Player Produce Two in a Row for Les Bleus?" Time International (May 27, 2002): 67.
Wahl, Grant. "Coup de Grace." Sports Illustrated (July 20, 1998): 28-33.
"ZZ Is Back on Top. "Soccer Digest (November, 2001): 34.
McGarry, Ian. "Madrid Hail Wonder Goal from Zidane." ESPN.com Soccernet. http://www.soccernet.com/championsleague/news/2002/0516/20020516bayervrealrep.html (May 16, 2002).
Real Madrid Official Web Site. http://www.realmadrid.com (January 11, 2003).
"Zidane." Real Madrid, Updated News, Information, Chatroom, Forum, and Much More (unofficial fan site). http://www.fortunecity.com/wembley/trafford/555/zidane.html (January 16, 2003).
Sketch by Julia Bauder