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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I salute you, Zinedine Zidane

No, I'm not really a football fan. Hell, I can even go through life without watching a single game of football. The English Premiere League, loved by all football fans in South East Asia, bore the crap out of me. But for social reasons, I tend to follow the results just so I won't be left out during conversations. Things changed after moving to Perth for my studies two years ago since Australians are just as indifferent towards football as I am (their obsession is the Australian Football RocLeague, and no, their football is NOT soccer), I didn't even have to make an effort to know what's going on at all, thus being completely oblivious to whatever's been happening throughout the world of football, hell, I didn't even know that Ronaldino had been crowned FIFA player of the year in the past two years.

(In case you're wondering, I'm a NBA fan since I was 9, when Michael Jordan got his third championship)

But then, in really rare occasions, I would make exceptions and TRY to watch the important games like the Champions League finals, or clashes between the top (or most popular) teams of the EPL (Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool), or the Euro, and like most non-Americans, I would try to make an effort to watch the World Cup, after all, like the Olympics, the Commonwealth, you may usually not give a damn about the individual sporting events when they are being held annually, but something like the Olympics or the World Cup is held only once every four years, unless you're American, can't really miss it, right?

So after watching Miami Heat win the NBA championship, I shifted my attention to the World Cup after the prelims, trying to watch every single game during the knockout stages. Those are the games that mattered anyway. Unfortunately, like most other times, I would usually doze off while watching a football match (especially those tortuous ones featuring England, which I rooted against). I can still remember four years ago, during World Cup 2002 Japan - Korea, my GRANDMOTHER actually had more interest in a match than I did. She and my dad watching, whilst I slept. Incredible.

Knowing that this would be Zinedine Zidane's last tournament, and every single game would possibly be his last, my hopes for France were low during the prelims, a sad realization that Zidane might exit with a whimper (kinda like Michael Jordan during his second comeback), but voila, miracles happened, and France got increasingly better throughout the tournament. Initially a bandwagoner fan of Brazil (they were dazzling four years ago, and I wanted to see Ronaldo break that damned record), the France vs Brazil game (which I also was asleep throughout the whole game until Thierry Henry's goal... I was awakened by my dad's helpful shout of 'GOAL!') left me breathless. Brazil choked. Ronaldino was a non-factor. Zidane was surprisingly amazing (I didn't watch the Spain vs France match, and Togo vs France was the only prelim match I watched).

France's march to the finals was like something in a generic sports film where you see a team of misfits (led by a jaded coach) overcoming all kinds of obstacles, surpassing all kinds of expectations, towards glory and victory. I got excited, being a sucker for most of these generic sports films, I KNEW I was going to see a fairy tale-ish ending for Zidane and France. A France win will be like a Hollywood ending... but wait, even a LOSS would be a Hollywood ending, kinda like Rocky, Friday Night Lights (that American Football film with Billy Bob Thornton) or Mystery, Alaska (that early Russell Crowe hockey film)

Who would've guessed that Zidane would choose an entirely unHollywood ending by getting himself a red card for headbutting Materazzi? So unexpected was this plot twist two nights ago that I didn't know whether to giggle or gasp in horror when I saw everything transpiring on the television screen. My dad and I were so blown away by what happened that Italy's subsequent victory didn't even mean that much anymore.

It's a strange game, and if I were an Italian player, I would be rather miffed. Imagine being in a game where you attained the highest glory possible in a football career, but instead of being remembered for your victory, the game will remember forever for the headbutt accident. The Finals of World Cup Berlin 2006 will go down in history not as the game which Italy won their fourth title, but for football legend Zinedine Zidane's incredible headbutt in his very last game, a magnificent career ended by a red card. This is a game that transcended winning or losing.

What we got is an kind of ending that's entirely unconventional, mostly something you would see from an indie film, or a controversial Asian cult film (by Takashi Miike). This is what Zidane gave us to remember him by. Watch it again in its full glory.

Mark my words, this incident will inspire a tidal wave of mashup videos similar to what the 'Bus Uncle' clip (read the Wiki entry about the incident here) did few months ago. Already, there are mashup videos in Youtube like this and this (the latter video's kinda gross) in Youtube. So expect to see many variations of this incident, possibly an 'epic version', a Brokeback Mountain version, an orchestra version, a fake prequel with dubbed voices, etc etc. We are living in an age where everyone can be creative, and anything they create can be distributed around easily over the Internet. Zinedine Zidane will be immortalized thanks to what he did, perhaps more so than any other footballer of his generation can ever dream of. His status has elevated from footballing icon to social and cultural phenomenon, and soon, he will forever engraved himself a place in pop culture. Hah! His deeds have opened the floodgate of creativity for all kinds of people over the Internet. Just watch! Thanks for the memories, Zidane! Now, has anyone played this Zidane flash game?