FIFA World Cup hall of fame: Zinedine Zidane, a revolutionary on and off the field

Zidane's raging face was lit up at Arc de Triomphe on the night of France's greatest ever sporting exploit in 1998.

Published: 09th June 2018 05:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th June 2018 10:35 AM   |  A+A-

Zinedine Zidane

Express News Service

Everything, from the name, to touch, dribbles, runs and passes, which at times defied geometry, about Zinedine Zidane was astonishing. World Cup winner and scorer in each of the two finals he played, the French talisman won everything he saw. Euro, Champions League, Ballon d' Or, Serie A, La Liga — it's a long list. Everything about Zizou had a flow. From style and substance to trophies and accolades.

Born to migrant Algerian parents, Zidane grew up in Marseille's troubled neighbourhoods. He has often spoken about growing up playing football alongside fellow African kids. Competition to hold on to the ball was such that he had to be really good at it. “It’s hard to explain, but I have a need to play intensely every day, to fight every match hard. And this desire never to stop fighting is something else I learnt in the place where I grew up.”

It was from here that Zidane's raging face was lit up at Arc de Triomphe on the night of France's greatest ever sporting exploit in 1998. He was the undisputed hero, scoring two goals in the final against Brazil. Zidane was the force that at times single-handedly lifted his club and country from mediocrity to greatness. The early loss of hair turned into a charm because of what his feet did with the ball. He did not have the coolest of heads though, as the infamous head-butt incident of the 2006 final showed. Even in 1998, he was shown a red card in a group league game for retaliation.

A non-practicing Muslim, Zidane changed the way a nation looked at migrants. More than the footballing aspect, which is well documented, it is this side of Zidane that makes him a great icon. There was a time when inhabitants of La Castellane were looked at with fear by Marseille locals, but 1998 would change all that. Such was his aura after the triumph that French intellectuals who don't rate athletes highly credited Zidane for bringing in change and even hoped of a birth of a rainbow nation.

He was asked by Guardian in 2004, when he was at the peak of his powers and the most expensive football player on the planet, where he felt most at home. What he said summed up his profile. “I am first of all from La Castellane and Marseille. I love Madrid. I am happy to be here. I have been here three years and hope to be here longer. But I am proud of where I come from and never forget the people I grew up with. Wherever I go, La Castellane is where I want to go back to. It is still my home... It is true that it is still a difficult area, what is called in French a quartier difficile. I think there is also a special culture there.”

Maybe that's one reason he has decided to leave Real Madrid after three successful and unprecedented Champions League campaigns as manager.


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