Zidane a Son of a Terrorist Whore?

The Times of London has hired a lip reader to devine what insult was hurled at French soccer legend Zinédine Zidane that made him go postal during the World Cup final, dooming his team’s chances of winning the most prestigious trophy in all of sports.

WITH his monkish mien backed by a sense of brooding menace, Zinédine Zidane has always been something of an enigma, so it is perhaps fitting that the final act of his career should be the source of such mystery. Just why did a man blessed with complete control of a football lose his head in such a violent manner at such a crucial moment, boring it into the chest of Marco Materazzi?

As L’Equipe summed up the moment of madness with a headline of “Regrets Éternels”, a day of endless questioning began. With many conflicting versions of events circling on the internet and in the world’s media, The Times enlisted the help of an expert lip reader, Jessica Rees, to determine the precise nature of the dialogue that caused Zidane to react in such a manner.

After an exhaustive study of the match video, and with the help of an Italian translator, Rees claimed that Materazzi called Zidane “the son of a terrorist whore” before adding “so just f*** off” for good measure, supporting the natural assumption that the Frenchman must have been grievously insulted. As the son of two Algerian immigrants, the 34-year-old is proud of his North African roots, dedicating France’s 1998 World Cup win to “all Algerians who are proud of their flag and all those who have made sacrifices for their family but who have never abandoned their own culture”, so such a slur would certainly explain, if not justify, his violent response.

When asked about the allegations on his return to Rome, Materazzi issued a vehement denial, while sources close to the player emphasised that he had not been accused of racism before, pointing to his close friendship with Obafemi Martins, the Nigeria and Inter Milan striker. “It is absolutely not true,” Materazzi said. “I did not call him a terrorist. I’m ignorant. I don’t even know what the word means. The whole world saw what happened on live TV.”

As legendary former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson noted on his radio program yesterday evening, there’s simply no excuse for Zidane’s actions because no one gets to be a star athlete without his teammates making big sacrifices. Essentially, the others feed him the ball, passing up their own shots, for the good of the team trusting that the star will come through. Zidane’s selfishness would be inexcusable even if his opponent said what the lip reader claims he said.

OTB Sports

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Herb Ely says:

    It turns out that Zidane had gotten 14 red cards during his career. It is easy to believe that the Italians knew this and goaded him, hoping that he would get thrown out of the game. Zidane had a character defect – his temper. I wonder if his coaches had worked with him on it. Under this scenario, he was tired and vulnerable and the Italians exploited his weakeness. This is not the best way to win – but this is the Worlds cup. The Italians, of course, will never admit that this was a deliberate tactic.

  2. Len says:

    What I find amazing is Materazzi’s statement that he is ignorant and does not even know what a terrorist is.

    This man lives in a civilized country in the 21st century and is attending an international sporting event as a representative of his country, and he is ignorant and does not even know what a terrorist is?

    I believe this would come under the heading of “Give Me a Break.”

  3. edgardo says:

    Actually Zidane’s temper is a much bigger problem than the 14 red cards he got in his career. In the past four or five years, while playing for Real Madrid in the Spanish League, too many times he was not ejected when he clearly deserved it for intentionally hitting an opponent. Everyone knew he had a problem, but I don’t think the Italians took advantage of it (they could have done it much earlier in the game and certainly during regular time).
    And please give Materazzi a break. He was quite clever. In his position, what have you said?

  4. Len says:

    I don’t believe I would have said I was ignorant and did not even know what a terrorist was. You think that’s clever?

    Then again, he can’t really come out and say that he baited the guy, can he? Better, I guess, to profess ignorance.

  5. John Burgess says:

    Hmmm… I bet if you went into an MLB locker room post-game you’d have a hard time finding a player who could give you any sort of nuance about any sort of political issue.

    I won’t even make you go into a “wresting” locker room… Or NBA or NHL…

  6. Len says:

    Even in an MLB, NBA or NHL locker room I doubt you found many who in this day and age do not know what a terrorist is.

    In fact, it may surprise you to learn that many MLB, NBA and NHL players are actually college educated and quite well informed as to current events.

    Some can even spell “wrestling.” (Sorry… uncalled for, but couldn’t resist seeing as how James is kind enough to even provide a spell checker here.)

  7. John Burgess says:

    I cast no aspersions on the intellectual capability of professional athletes (well, maybe WWF, and sorry for the typo).

    My point is that people with jobs that require maximum focus in one area rarely have the time to spend becoming any sort of expert on issue peripheral to that area. Sure, they know what terrorism is–as I’m sure Materazzi does–but I seriously doubt that they spend their time reading anti-terror blogs or think-tank reports on it. They get their information from the MSM, same as most people.

    I’m also sure, that if you were to ask, you’d find Materazzi very up-to-date on the Italian soccer scandals.

    And anyway, rather than claiming actual ignorance of terrorism, Materazzi was likely disclaiming any expertise on the matter, thus the unlikelihood that he’d use it as a slur.