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ZZ: Sportsman of the Year
by Amin George Forji
2007-01-04 08:02:33
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As 2006 ended, and we welcome a new year, it is traditionally imperative to picture out persons who distinguished themselves during the course of the previous year. In fact, prominent magazines the world over are right now puzzling over who they will nominate as their “man (or woman) of the year”. Since that person must be shown to be above par, it is understood that it is never an easy task for any media to arrive at that nomination.

TIME magazine, which first invented the idea of naming the man of the year in 1927, defines that man as someone who, "for better or for worse, most affected events during the year". This will be my working definition as well, in naming the 2006 man of the year. Meanwhile, quite a number of people the world-over definitely made both a name and a difference in what they strongly stood for, one man certainly achieved a milestone, and that is Zinedine Zidane of France.

ovi_zidane01_400In 2006, he was undoubtedly one of the very few personalities in any walk of life who successfully not only influenced but completely changed the psychology of nations, during the Germany 2006 tournament, instilling in the French (his country of nationality) and Algerians (his country of ancestry) a new sense of patriotism. Furthermore, his fine play that animated millions of spectators the world-over is one of those elements that made it possible for the 2006 world cup to deserve of the entertainment it deserved.

Having reserved to go on final retirement, the 2006 world cup was definitely his last tournament; the reason why all cameras at the competition were focused on him. He played his finest football, inspiring Les Bleus, who had lost their momentum, all the way to the finals, which they lost to Italy.

As far as 2006 is concerned, Zidane will be remembered for his ugly head butt at the finals, which led to his expulsion, not only from the match, but also from the game forever.

Zidane first came into the international arena during the 1998 world cup in France, won by the host country. Zidane emerged from the tournament as an undisputed force by scoring two goals against Brazil in the final. He was unanimously voted as the FIFA player of the year. Two years later, he again helped France win Euro 2000 and the FIFA confederations cup.

He was again named FIFA player of the year in 2000 and 2003. In 2001, he had already become the world’s most expensive player, when the Spanish giant Real Madrid bought him from Juventus at a record fee of $US63.6 million. Beside the national side, he won three league winners medals with his Italian and Spanish clubs, as well as the Champions League in 2002 with Real Madrid.

On July 9th 2006, France, captained by Zidane, played the world cup final against Italy at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. One interesting thing to point out is that the stadium was actually constructed during the Nazi regime (Adolf Hitler being the controversial TIME magazine man of the year in 1938).

In fact, after winning enough glory for himself before he could go on his final retirement from the game, Zidaneovi_zidane02 committed one of the highest blunders of his whole career at the 110th minute of the game when he head butted Italian Marco Materazzi in the chest, leading to his expulsion.

Although many sympathetic Frenchmen viewed his headbutt as a mark of masculinity, it must nonetheless be said that, despite his fine play, Zidane’s weakest point was a rough game. He received at least a red card in every league he played, and beside Rigobert Song of Cameroon, he is just the only other player to have received red cards in two different world cup tournaments.

The headbutt put his illustrious career in partial shambles as he suddenly descended from grace to grass in the eyes of the media and the public. However, at the end of the tournament, the world football governing body FIFA voted him as the man of the tournament- a vote which despite his ugly headbutt was largely undisputed. At least, a soft consolation for his well earned retirement that was almost ruined.

Today, (after the world cup), Zidane has become more popular in France than ever before, or than will ever have been had the finals against Italy end at the 109th minute.

Well, on a personal note, the most I can say is that for better or for worse, I am convinced Zidane earned to be the 2006 man of the year.

Congrats Zizou!!!

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