Zidane's infamous headbutt appears in bronze at Pompidou

Sep 27, 2012
Gavin Mortimer

Parisians enjoy bronze sculpture depicting Zidane's moment of madness in 2006 World Cup final

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THE Pompidou Centre in Paris has exhibited some of the world's greatest artists, from Matisse to Dali to Picasso, but for the next three months its main attraction will be a sculpture by the French artist Adel Abdessemed.

Entitled Headbutt, and displayed outside the exhibition hall, the bronze has quickly proved a hit with Parisians. According to reports, crowds jostled on Wednesday to have their photo taken in front of the five-metre statue that captures one of the most infamous moments in football history.

It was during extra-time of the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy that French captain Zinedine Zidane clashed with Italian defender Marco Materazzi. Fed up with having his shirt constantly pulled by Materazzi, Zidane asked his opponent he if wanted the shirt at the end of the match. The Italian told Zidane he'd "prefer your whore of a sister".

Zidane response was a headbutt (more of a chest butt) that flattened Materazzi and got the Frenchman sent off in his last match for his country. Italy went on to win the final 5-3 on penalties.

Materazzi subsequently issued an apology of sorts, but while Zidane has asked the forgiveness of his country he has never shown any contrition towards the Italian. "To him I cannot. Never, never," he said a few years later. "It would be to dishonour me. I'd rather die. There are evil people. And I don't even want to hear those guys speak."

A smaller version of the sculpture, which depicts Zidane moments after he'd butted Materazzi, has already been exhibited in a New York art gallery without receiving much attention. But the one outside the Popidou is sure to have a constant stream of visitors between now and January when Abdessemed's exhibition ends.

‘Zizou', as Zidane is known in France, is still revered across the country after he inspired them to victory in the 1998 World Cup. Not only was it the first time France had won the tournament but they did so on home soil. Two years later Zidane was instrumental in leading France to glory in the European Championships.

"This statue goes against the tradition of making statues in honour of certain victories," said exhibition organiser Alain Michaud. "It is an ode to defeat."

Like Zidane, the 41-year-old Abdessemed is of Algerian extraction and many of his previous works have found their inspiration from violence. "I wanted to show the dark side of our heroes, the flavour of inescapable destiny and the immediate effects of a gesture," he told Le Figaro when asked to explain the sculpture.

Whatever next? John Terry outside the Tate Modern?

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so... we have an Algerian artist immortalising the infamous head butt of Zinedine Zidane on Italy's Marco Materazzi... seriously... so I can't wait for a 5metre bronze of Eric Cantona and his kung fu kick on that pleb at Crystal Palace with maybe a few seagulls fying about or Roy Keane ending Håland's career in the Manchester Derby (basically GBH and should have been arrested) or German keeper Harald Schumacher taking out Battiston who was out cold with a broken jaw, damaged vertebrae and teeth knocked out, later slipping into a coma. Emergency medics had to administer oxygen on the pitch and he was carried off the field on a stretcher.

Yes, this is the French we know and love.