You had to be there, or perhaps just be watching it on the telly. Go back 7 years to the 2006 World Cup finals. It was, as all World Cup finals are, a match of great intensity. It pitted the heavily favoured French national team against the Italian national team, who had arrived at the finals fairly unexpectedly. Even though the Italian national team has a legendary history behind them, having won multiple World Cups over the last several decades, they had not been particularly impressive during the months leading up to the World Cup nor during the initial rounds. But, by what some would call luck and others would call a combination of luck and skill, here they were at centre stage playing arguably the most important match in world football. They probably would’ve lost to the French team had it not been for an unforgettable error by the captain of the French team, Zinedine Zidane.
The game had gone back and forth, with neither team dominating the match. In fact, the score was tied 1 to 1 with just about 10 minutes left in regulation play. It was then that Zidane made a fatal mistake: he let one of the Italian players, midfielder Marco Materazzi, get to him. It seems that Materazzi made some insulting comments to Zidane on the pitch, with some people believing it was related to derogatory comments about the French captain’s sister. Nonetheless, Zidane lost his cool and lost control of himself. Almost as if by reflex, he gave Materazzi a vicious head-butt, causing the Italian midfielder to fall to the pitch.
Unfortunately, the entire incident was seen by one of the referees. Without a moment’s hesitation, the referee drew a red card on Zidane, and the captain was out of the game. It proved to be an extremely costly mistake. Once the two teams remained scoreless in overtime, the only thing left was to go to penalty kicks. Zidane was arguably the best scorer on the team, and with him out of the lineup, the French were at a distinct disadvantage. Sure enough, the Italians won the penalty kick round and wound up winning the World Cup.
It might seem that such reckless and unsportsmanlike behaviour should be best left to the annals of history. However, an Algerian artist named Adel Abdessemed decided to create a five-metre statue of the incident, which is now on display in the centre of Paris. Perhaps he was inspired by the fact that Zidane is also of Algerian descent, or he may have decided to create this sculpture as a reminder of the dangers involved in unsportsmanlike conduct. Either way, Zidane was vehemently criticised upon his return to France and never played in an international contest again.
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