Qatar World Cup ‘whore’ Zidane sues comedian
Christophe Aleveque attacked Zinedine Zidane for fronting Qatar 2022 World Cup campaign
The legendary French footballer Zinedine Zidane is taking legal action against a comedian who denounced him as a "whore" for signing a multi-million dollar contract to be the public face of Qatar's successful bid to stage the 2022 World Cup.
Lawyers for 'Zizou' say he will sue Christophe Aleveque for damaging "his honour, his dignity, his probity, his reputation as a man and a public figure." The comedian had dismissed Zidane as "an advertising hoarding... who exploits his image outrageously", comparing him to a common prostitute.
A revered figure in French sport after scoring twice as captain of the national team that beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final, Zidane also evoked much public admiration for remaining true to his humble roots as the son of Algerian immigrants who grew up in one of the toughest quartiers of Marseille.
He spoke out publicly and eloquently against the racist policies of France's National Front party led by Jean-Marie Le Pen and ploughed his own money into projects designed to help stop young people of North African origin from drifting into drugs and petty crime.
One stark measure of how Zidane's links with Qatar have alienated former admirers is provided by remarks made by Yannick Noah, the former tennis star who frequently tops opinion polls as France's most popular public figure.
"I love Zizou, but that Qatar business stinks," Noah observed sadly, a view amply reflected in acrimonious comments on French internet websites.
"This guy would have backed the Chinese bid if he got offered more," wrote one angry poster, while Aleveque's withering attack on Zidane - which included a sneering reference to his lucrative endorsement of a well-known brand of yoghurt - has been widely applauded online.
It has been reported that Zidane earned some $3m for backing the lavishly funded Qatar bid, which featured him in advertisements proclaiming: "There are no limits to one's dreams."
His annual income from sponsorship - Adidas and Orange mobile phones are other clients - is estimated to be as much as €35 million.
Whether his earning power will be affected by the Qatari connection remains to be seen, but the enduring love for 'Zizou' among the French public - which survived the notorious head-butt on Italy's Marco Materazzi which got him sent off in the final of the 2006 World Cup against Italy - may now be put to a more challenging test.
Meanwhile, Aleveque's lawyers maintain that while he now regrets "the use of certain terms" in his tirade against Zidane, he still maintains that the overall tone of his comments was fully justified. ·
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