Zinedine Zidane came out of international retirement to help a floundering France side in 2004……but why? Justin Bryant recounts the reasons behind Zizou’s decision and the moment that helped shape the enduring image of the 2006 World Cup.
By Justin Bryant – @Keepers_Union
Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi is the enduring image of the 2006 World Cup Final, and indeed, one of the iconic images of ANY World Cup. It was a moment of madness that, at the time, seemed as if it would forever tarnish Zizou’s legacy. But it hasn’t. He was forgiven almost immediately, and the incident is but a blip in an otherwise storied and glittering career. There is even a statue in Paris commemorating it.
A moment of madness it may have been – but did you know there was an equally mad moment that led to Zidane playing in the 2006 World Cup to begin with?
Roll the clock back to 2004. After their shock dismissal by Greece at the Euros, the 32-year-old Zidane announced his retirement from international football. Unfortunately for France, other key members of the Golden Generation, such as Claude Makalele, Lilliam Thuram, and Marcel Desailly, also left the national team to concentrate on club football, and les Bleus struggled mightily without them. With qualification for the 2006 World Cup off to a poor start, coach Raymond Domenech put out the distress call to Zidane, and he duly returned to duty, helping France reach the finals in Germany.
Only it’s not nearly that simple. Why did he decide to play again for the national team? France Football asked, and unfortunately for him, Zidane decided to answer.
“One night at three in the morning,” he told France Football, “I suddenly woke up and spoke to someone. During the hours that followed I was on my own with that person, at home, and I took the decision to come back.
“I had never experienced that before. I felt pushed by this force which dictated my behaviour. It was a revelation for me. I had to obey that voice that was advising me
“I don’t want people to make too much out of this, or for what I’ve confessed to be misinterpreted, but what’s happened to me is quite mystical and even escapes me a bit,” Zidane said. “I didn’t tell anyone about this, not my wife, not anyone.”
Wow. Quite mystical? Pushed by ‘a force’?
So who – or what – was it?
“Until my last breath, I won’t say,” he said. “It’s too intense.”
Too intense. Mystical and intense. A mystical, intense voice in the middle of the night advises him to play for France again, so he does, and they qualify, and very nearly win the whole thing.
But, really, Zizou, that voice: who was it? The French public wouldn’t drop it. Papers were full of speculation. Was it God? Did the Almighty have a vested interest in France’s World Cup hopes?
The elegant midfielder was finally forced to quell rumors and answer the question.
The mystical voice belonged to…his brother.
He released the following statement on his website: “I didn’t want to say who that person was. But since it was misinterpreted … I say that this person was my brother. There is nothing religious, nothing mystical, about it.”
Ah, misinterpreted! People thought the experience was ‘mystical’ because he told France Football that the experience was, er, ‘mystical.’
Knowing it was only his brother harassing him at three in the morning, it’s fun to look again at his original statement.
“I felt pushed by this force that dictated my behavior”
You’re a wealthy, world-famous, extravagantly talented superstar, and your brother living rent-free in your house is a ‘force’? Tell him to go cut the grass.
“What’s happened to me is quite mystical”
It’s really not. It’s your drunk brother. He’s very real, and sleeping on your settee.
“it…even escapes me a bit”
“I don’t want people to make too much out of this”
Why would they? You’ve only hinted at everyday Divine Intervention.
It is unfair on footballers of Zidane’s stature that everything they say becomes part of the permanent public record, and he’s neither the first nor last one to ascribe fantastic qualities to the mundane. It sounds as if he was genuinely moved by his brother’s intervention, and simply gushed a bit too much and too obscurely about it. It’s good for a giggle, but if not even the headbutt can sully Zizou’s golden reputation, then a mystical brother surely isn’t going to. Or even a real one, sleeping on his settee.
Was it his brother, or something more which made Zinedine Zidane return? Tweet us @talkingbaws or comment below.