Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ifs and Butts

And so, to the now (in)famous Zinedine headbutt.

Personally, I laughed myself silly watching re-runs of the thing on TV, and continue to maintain that it was an act of comic genius (as I argue in the comments here). I mean, can you imagine a wackier and more unpredictable way of ending a career? It's positively inspirational. The day I finally get my PhD my advisor had better be wearing a sternum guard.

I'm even more amused by the reaction of Zidane fans. First, there's this whole racial sledging thing. Everywhere I look people are going around speculating on what Materazzi must have said to Zidane to provoke the headbutt. Aside from the fact that at this point this is all unproven hearsay (even if Zidane does finally come through with a statement, I don't see any reason why we have to take his word against Materazzi's), I'm amazed that anyone would think that anything Materazzi might have said was justification for Zidane's actions. The argument is not, as some people have suggested, that Zidane should not have reacted because it was the World Cup Final and he had a critical role to play. The argument is that, outside of Dharmendra movies and Shiv Sena Headquarters, it is not okay to respond to things you percieve as insulting with physical violence. That argument applies as much to Zidane as it does to the rioters protesting the Danish cartoons or the 'desecration' of Mrs. Thackeray's statue. Physically assaulting someone on the playing field because they say something insulting is behaviour better suited to eight year olds. In a civilised society we don't responds to words with fists. Or headbutts.[1]

I'm also amused by the convenient fiction (implicit in much of the moaning about Zidane's actions) that Zidane's exit was the reason the French side lost the match. It's certainly a wonderful face saving device, isn't it? The fiction writer in me is almost tempted to speculate that maybe the very purpose of the headbutt was to get Zidane sent off so the French would have a ready excuse for losing.

Finally, I can't help being a little curious about the headbutt per se. Who responds to insults with headbutts? Punches, yes. Kicks, possibly. But headbutts? Is this a cultural thing? Are there societies out there where the headbutt is the ubiquitous form of social assault? Do people actually go around saying "Say one more word and I'll headbutt you in the sternum"? Are there martial arts movies where the hero and villain fight by exchanging headbutts? Has Zidane watched too many Animal Planet specials on the mating rituals of antelopes?

Or was Zidane, perhaps, concerned about using his hands in a football game? Because THAT would be a foul?

[1] The desire to escape being insulted is, of course, the principle reason that the French don't speak anything but their own language - that way they don't know what the English are saying about them. You could always try insulting a Frenchman in French, but the odds that you'll actually pronounce it right are so low that it's not a serious threat.


Jabberwock said...

"Civilised society"? Where? Where?

insomniac said...

I second jabberwock on that one. I'd love to see which countries/cultures are upholding the norms of such civil societies. Yes degrees vary, so do the reactions of people. Not everyone would answer an insult with a headbutt or some form of physical violence but many do! And Dharmendra movies and Shiv Sena headquarters is a very narrow classification.

However, when it comes to football almost every other footballer is guilty of such sort of violence. Why it was Figo the other day who also headbutted a Dutch player. He got away with a yellow card! Apart from that, punching, kicking, elbows etc. are the norm. Its only a matter of how smart you are or how easily you can get away with it!

Loved the part about the French lol There is some truth in it!


Sunbeamz said...

I completely agree with your final point - that is exactly what I thought at that point. Since when did the headbutt become a reaction to insults? Or maybe footballers practice using the header too much!

Cheshire Cat said...

You're being absurdly sanctimonious. Sport is a sublimation of war, and frankly it's stirring to see people being honest about it and getting right down to action... Holland vs Portugal was the best match of the World Cup.

What I do regret is that Zidane didn't do more damage with that headbutt - Materazzi would have deserved it even if he had said nothing at all. That thug.

Szerelem said...

Materazzi is a nipple twister...(and the some in all probability)...hmpff...well not that excuses Zidane at all....his idiocy has now become part of his legacy....sigh...it was heart breaking...

But i think his background does have something to do with this...hes very proud of it and has been mocked about it before repeatedly...sadly, its very difficult to disentangle Zidane the great player from Zidane the Algerian immigrant hero
really liked this - http://sport.independent.co.uk/football/comment/article1171423.ece

Cheshire Cat - LOL! and i totally agree. It did seem like he gave it a thought before butting Materazzi...and if he had to get a red card he shouldve doen it right - broken Materazzis nose or so. Or like a friend of mine suggested probably gone on a rampage after he got the card and taken down half the Italian team.

Is it obvious that im biased?

Ellie said...

This much goes 'behind' a headbutt??

Nice reading u...:p (is that an equivalent of nice meeting u in Blogosphere??)

Falstaff said...

Jabberwock: :-).

insomniac: whether or not countries / cultures uphold those norms is irrelevant - such behaviour is unacceptable. Saying otherwise is like saying we should ignore laws because there isn't a society in the world where people don't break them.

The point is that if people indulge in acts of random violence they deserve to be punished for it (as Zidane was). Saying Materazzi started it by insulting him is no justification.

sunbeamz: Yes, strange isn't it?

cat: :-). Oh absolutely. But getting to the point where we agree that sport is not a civilised pasttime is precisely where I want to go. The sooner we acknowledge that these barbaric rituals are about our craving for physical violence the sooner we'll be able to see real bloodshed, instead of this wimpy business of kicking around balls and pretending we're interested in the player's talent.

szerelem: See, this is exactly what I mean by comic effect - is there anything funnier than a World Cup final where the main contest is between the headbutter and the nipple twister? How people manage to take this stuff seriously is beyond me.

ellie: Thanks

30in2005 said...

Very unsportsman-like and inexcusable no matter what the provocation. Shame he will forever be remembered for this rather than his years a a footballing superstar!

confused said...

Takes a deep breadth....

I am not going to take it seriously because I suspect you wrote it to rile up people :)

But yes, no one not even the Frnech are defending Zidane or saying he should have done it. However racism in soccer remains a serious issue and FIFA has sat over their collective asses and done nothing about it. Zidane deserves his punishment, no doubt, but if Materazzi did pass racist remarks, he deserves condmenation and punishment. That is all Zidane fans like me are saying. :) A headbutt is an offnse and so is passing racist cmments. No?

insomniac said...

Fallstaff, my point is not whether this is acceptable or not. Surely, no sportsman should be doing that. I am not justifying Zidane's actions.

But the pain fact is that this is not the first time someone resorted to physical violence nor the last. And when it comes to footballers I would like to see even *one* footballer who was a saint!

This is common practice in football, but just because Zidane was in the spotlight and this was the final, people cant stop yapping about it! Not saying that they shouldn't. I love gossip ! :P:P

In a lot of ways you are saying the exact same thing I am. I'm just adding that footballers (and other sportsmen) do it day in and day out and its not limited to the meager confines of Shiv Sena and Dharmendra!

gawker said...

Materazzi : Hey Zidane, suck my d***

Zidane : You want me to give you head? I'll give you head.


confused said...


Don't take Falstaff's posts about Football too seriously. I suspect it gives him a lot of amusement to make sweeping statements and then see how people react. He can be quite evil if you know what i mean. Notice how subtely he introduces his message of how people take this game so seriously and such. That is the real purpose behind such posts, A giant Falstaffian conspiracy to get people away from the game. :)


Sorry! :)

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

People who are getting all hot under the collar, do not take this man seriously. he was supporting Montenegro or some other team for god's sake.

also, falstaff - can we have a story sometime soon pleasE? I'm suffering from withdrawal symptoms

Falstaff said...

30in2005: I agree. My point though is that it's not just unsportsmanlike, it's just bad behaviour generally.

confused: :-). but of course. Just read the post - surely you can see that I'm not being entirely serious (come on - headbutting my advisor when I get my PhD, the jokes about headbutting and the French).

More seriously though, I agree entirely - if Materazzi did pass racist comments he should be punished. I think the difficulty is how do you police that? At any given point, it's likely to be one player's word against anothers (or one side's word against the others) and how would you ever tell who was lying or who was telling the truth? In general, I think we're all better off not taking insults seriously - things morons say about you that have no factual basis are just not worth responding to - specially given that provocation is usually what these people want. (admittedly, my own track record in taking insults calmly isn't outstanding - as regular readers of this blog know - but I can assure you I'm suitably ashamed when I let some insulting remark someone makes get to me).

insomniac: I think you should listen to confused. At least part of the purpose of this post is to get a reaction out of Zinedine fans / football lovers. I totally agree that all footballers do this stuff (though I suspect many of them are clever enough not to get caught) but I hardly think of footballers as model citizens. At any rate, my point, as yours, was simply that this kind of behaviour is unjustifiable per se, whatever the provocation.

shoe-fiend: Actually, it was Tunisia, I think. And yes, yes, tomorrow. I promise.

Supremus said...

At the end of it all, me, and the zen within me says thus:

It was zidane who ruined the match. Period. The reaons for or against dont matter :D

Yeah Yeah, I like simplicity.


Astha said...

lol. very well written!

Neela said...

I don't care what anyone says. That headbutt was elegant, beautiful, poetic - ballet in motion, literature in a headbutt. The haiku of headbutts. I could go on and on, but Falstaff, of all people, you aesthete, surely you should appreciate that. Civilized? That, my friend, is the most civilized headbutt I have ever seen in my entire life. Not that sham of Dennis Rodman sort of feeling foreheads with the referee or that little thing Figo tried to sneakily get away with. If you get an urge to headbutt, you have to do it proudly, elegantly, deliberately like Zizou did.

Of course the fact that Zizou looks searingly hot has nothing to do with any of this. And that fact that he may have responded to a ma-behen gaali also has nothing to do with anything (except endear him even more disgustingly to his female fans). But what a script for a blockbuster movie (and they'll probably ruin it by getting Colin Farrell or Brad Pitt to play Zizou).

falsie: get back to yer suicidal/porno stories. And if you do want to headbutt your advisor, I'd advise you to study the Zizou tape over and over again to see how he does it. At least do it well.


Akash said...

In a civilised society we don't responds to words with fists. Or headbutts.

Very thought provoking post. Now the question remains, assuming Materazzi actually called Zizou "dirty terrorist", how civilized the behavior was on the part of Materazzi. Or, for example, assume that ZZ retorts to MM with an equally penetrating slur, say something "You are a motherf*****", instead of using physical force. Now will we call that the whole incident was settled in a civilized way?

Had ZZ not done that headbutt the whole matter would perhaps have never come to the fore and MM would've surely got away being “uncivilized” leaving ZZ stung with yet another humiliation that he had been subjected to since his childhood. I'm no way supporting ZZ's reaction or calling it "civilized". Now what "civilized" way it could have been for ZZ to react to the most coward and shameful abuses hurled at him by MM (again assuming MM really did that, for the sake of the present discussion on what is “civilized”)? OK, if the answer is that he should not have reacted at all in the first place, because it is not very civilized either to lose temper, then it’s just too nice. God is only civilized.

Falstaff said...

supremus: :-). Fine, fine, have it your way.

astha: thanks

Neela: There's really no contradiction between something being aesthetically beautiful and being uncivilised you know (haven't you ever heard of the noble savage), or for that matter between something being poetic and hilarious.

And Zidane is 'searingly hot'? Really? Agree with you about the blockbuster movie plot though - all the time I was watching the replays I kept thinking - now that's how Lagaan should have ended - with Aamir Khan head-butting the smug Englishman, being run out, and his entire village having to suffer for ever as a consequence. Now that would have been an Oscar-winning film.

akash: No, calling MM names wouldn't have been particularly civilised either. Recognising that MM is uncivilised moron and just ignoring what he was saying would have been. (I mean seriously, how does it matter if someone calls you a terrorist - unless that someone works for the Department of Homeland Security, of course). Or, failing that, reporting the incident to the authorities and filing an official complaint against MM would have been good (I don't actually know if football has rules against that sort of behaviour). Or, if necessary, going public with the incident and putting MM's comment in every newspaper on the planet (and surely ZZ had the power to do that) - thereby rallying public opinion against MM. If the idea was to bring the issue of racism in football to the fore, as you seem to suggest, surely that was the more intelligent (and civilised) way to do it.

Akash said...

@Falstaff: If the idea was to bring the issue of racism in football to the fore, as you seem to suggest, surely that was the more intelligent (and civilised) way to do it.

No, I never suggested that ZZ headbutted to attract public attention to the vicious issue of racism. It'd be too much to believe, particularly when he was totally focused heart and soul in a pressure game to win the greatest glory in the game of football. What I suggested is that, ZZ lost his temper at the abuses thrown at him by MM, something that in my opinion was not unnatural considering what serious things the abuses suggested and what pressure he was under. If you agree with me up to that, then the question was what "civilized" way it could have been for ZZ to react to such dastardly behavior (I repeat that we agree on the point the ZZ had to react) . You seem to suggest in the post that responding with physical force to verbal abuses is NOT civilized. I ask back, should an equally heinous/detestable verbal abuse thrown back at MM by ZZ, instead of resorting to physical measures, have saved him from being called "uncivilized"?
I just recall an incident of the past to which I was a witness. While traveling in a local train in the suburbs of Calcutta there was an altercation broken out between two persons, perhaps over the occupation of a particular seat. One person evidently looked more sober than the other, well spoken and good looking. The other person looked clearly unrefined, a bit rustic and much less educated than his opponent, so in the verbal argument that ensued, he clearly could not match his challenger. Understanding the second person’s clear disadvantage to speak well to win an argument, our more educated challenger started playing a little bit foul. He started using some English abuses to psych him out and ridicule him publicly. In the end, we saw that the unrefined man just lost his temper and planted a huge box on his face….. Do you think what he did was “uncivilized”?

Falstaff said...

akash: read my previous comment. I've already told you what I think the civilised response would be. (hint: it didn't include insulting MM back)

meditativerose said...

I agree with Neela .. I think it was super-hot.
I think I might become a sports fan (or at least a soccer fan)
(or at least a soccer-players fan)


Falstaff said...

MR: You're calling Zidane 'it' now? Also, well, let's face it, you're just desperate.

Szerelem said...

Zidane IS searingly hot.
do u know the French are now comparing Zizou to Camus(well they are both French Algerian) but apparently the Coup de tete is now the ultimate existential act.....LOLs!

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