|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
France happy with Zidane's apology
July 14, 2006 13:47 IST
French ministers, former coaches and players, intellectuals and ordinary fans on Thursday hailed soccer star Zinedine Zidane's [Images] half apology for head-butting an opponent in the World Cup final.
Zidane told the nation in television interviews on Wednesday that he is sorry his actions had been witnessed by millions of children around the world, but said he could have no regrets for defending his family from an Italian player's insults.
"I think Zinedine Zidane said what we all expected. That is to say he apologised, in particular to children and teachers," said sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour.
Zidane, playing his last game for his country, was sent off in Sunday's final for striking Italy [Images] defender Marco Materazzi in the chest. The French captain said he lashed out after the Italian insulted his mother and sister.
His sending off 10 minutes before the end of the game ensured he missed the penalty shoot-out which Italy won 5-3.
L'Equipe, France's [Images] top sporting paper which bitterly criticised his attack on Materazzi in Monday's paper, was more conciliatory on Thursday, pointing to Zidane's impassioned comments on the need to fight the racism blighting the sport.
"Never, during a long career during which he heard such things hundreds of times, had he touched on this subject," the paper wrote in an editorial.
"These interviews by Zinedine Zidane were a fairly solemn way of saying goodbye, after the missed opportunity of Berlin."
Materazzi has admitted insulting Zidane, but denied referring to his opponent's mother or making racist comments. Both men face disciplinary hearings by soccer's governing body FIFA.
Michel Hidalgo, a former coach of the national football side, was among leading figures who refused to condemn Zidane out of hand, telling French Radio: "One can sense that he is someone who has been hurt, because he could have had a golden goodbye if this incident hadn't happened.
"He feels offended and he lost his temper. He said it was reprehensible. We also have to say to him that he can be forgiven for it."
Ordinary fans welcomed his apology. "What struck me most of all was that Zidane is a man of honour," entertainment worker Herve Lambinet, 54, told Le Parisien.
Israeli writer Etgar Keret in the Liberation newspaper said Zidane's action was that of a man embracing his fate.
"By his explosion of anger this player chose to end his magnificent career not as a legend, but as an individual, warm, sensitive and not larger than life."
Zidane can still count on the unwavering support of Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso [Images].
"There is disappointment on one side because he's my favourite player and these things you cannot do on the field," said the Renault driver and Real Madrid fan at the French Grand Prix in Magny-Cours on Thursday.
"But I still support him. When you do something like that it is because something happened before. It's the normal reaction for a professional," added the Spaniard.
Italian driver Jarno Trulli, however, said he could not condone what Zidane had done.
"I can understand his reaction but unfortunately I cannot forgive him," Trulli said.