1) If Zinedine Zidane isn’t a personal hero and you didn’t support the French team: you shake your head in smug self-righteousness and make noises about a great player ending his career in disgrace, condemned to be remembered for all time for one shameful incident. All the while you’re shivering with the very particular excitement that comes with watching heroes being toppled off pedestals.
If you belong in the above category and you’re also a Calcuttan, you earnestly explain to TV channels that you’re pleased Italy won because they beat France, and France had earlier beaten Brazil, which is of course the best team in the world. Intermittently you scream “Ronaldinho! Ronaldinho!”
2) If you’re a middle-of-the-road Zidane fan you brush off tears, mutter darkly that he must have been provoked beyond human tolerance to do something like this; you talk about the red mist in a great player’s head, about the thin line between genius and madness – you point out that both qualities spring from the same source, that one cannot exist without the other, and this is why the careers of many great sportspersons make for such fascinating studies.
3) But if you’re a genuine Zidane devotee – like a dear friend with whom I’ve had some immensely stimulating discussions about sport and life – this is what you say (and I’m quoting as best as I can remember):
I mean sure, he had to be red-carded, no question about that. But did you see that head-butt? If you have to end your career with a head-butt, this is the perfect way to do it. It was as graceful and effective and beautiful as everything else the man has done in his entire career. Marco is a hulking six-footer and he went down like a tree. And what’s with this idiot Times correspondent going on about how Zidane’s career didn’t end on the poetic note he was hoping for? Has the man ever actually read any poetry? Or was he talking about Westlife songs? What happened with Zidane here was positively Homeric.And later:
Watching a man like Zidane, whether he’s playing or head-butting, you realise that all you’re ever going to be is this poncey little journalist carrying a laptop around, pretending that your life is actually worth something.And then you spend the whole night practicing artistically executed head butts against the wall of your room.
[Clarification: I haven’t been following football long enough to fit in any of the above categories myself. But if I did, it would probably be somewhere in the second.]
P.S. My friend also called my attention to a press conference by the Israeli prime minister, telecast Live on CNN this morning, where the man spent the first five minutes congratulating Italy on their WC win, and only then moved on to the subject of violence in Gaza and the need for Israel-Palestine peace. Lovely.