July 14, 1998
The Wisdom Fund

Soft Spoken Muslim Hero of World Cup

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Zinedine Zidane, a soft spoken Muslim, emerged last Sunday as the hero of the World Cup soccer finals in France.

Son of an Algerian janitor, Zidane, with a flick of his head scored the first two of the three goals which gave France victory over Brazil -- favored to win the 16th World Cup. With these two goals, Zidane, in the final match of the World Cup, watched by an estimated 1.7 billion television viewers around the world, became an instant celebrity.

In an impromptu celebration 1,500,000 people packed the two miles along the Champs Elysees yesterday to see their conquering heroes in the middle of a working day. A huge portrait of Zidane was projected on the Arc de Triomphe, and crowds shouted "Zidane! President!" Not since DeGaulle marched triumphantly into Paris in 1944 has France seen such a celebration.

The fact that France won the World Cup, with the "most ethnically diverse team in the competition -- African, Arab, Pacific island, West Indian, Armenian, Breton, Norman, Basque, Provencal" according to the London based Independent, may not change the realities of life for immigrants in late 20th century France.

For the moment, however, the latent racism in French society -- the most racist society in Europe according to a government survey published last week, was forgotten.

"This team is France. But the improved version," said the news magazine Marianne. "This is the France we would love to see: valiant, stubborn, enterprising, multi-racial but accepting its 'metissage' (mongrel nature) as a gentle fact of life."

Andrew Hussey, "ZZ top: Zinedine Zidane's journey from the rough back streets of Marseille to Madrid has been marked by racism, political controversy and superlative football," The Observer, April 4, 2004

[In a fortnight when two Arab footballers have kept Israel in World Cup contention, an Arab schoolboy has beaten hundreds of Jewish children to win a quiz focused on the history of Zionism.--Donald Macintyre and Said Ghazali, Arab Israeli beats Jewish boys in quiz on Zionism," The Independent, April 7, 2005]

"Sent-off Zidane named best player," BBC News, July 10, 2006

[Rees claimed that Materazzi called Zidane "the son of a terrorist whore" before adding "so just f*** off" for good measure--Matt Hughes, "Read my lips: the taunt that made Zidane snap," The Times, July 11, 2006]

["I was very seriously provoked," said the 34-year-old French football captain, adding that Materazzi "said very hard words about my mother and my sister. I tried not to listen to him but he kept repeating them". . . .

He conceded his headbutt was an "unforgivable gesture" and apologised to all the children and educators who had been watching.--Angelique Chrisafis, " Millions tune in as ZZ addresses the nation," Guardian, July 13, 2006]

"Zinedine Zidane: Real Madrid boss stands down five days after Champions League win," BBC News, May 31, 2018

[Trevor Noah, the South African host of a popular U.S. TV show, sparred with the French ambassador in Washington after the comedian joked that Africa, not France, won the soccer World Cup.--"France hits back at US TV show host over make-up of World Cup team," Reuters, July 19, 2018]

[Zayn Ali Salman was just four years old when he caught the attention of one of London's biggest football clubs--"The four-year-old footballer scouted by Arsenal while still at nursery,", October 20, 2021]

Copyright © 1998 The Wisdom Fund - All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced only in printed newspapers and magazines provided that it is not edited, and our name and URL are included. It may not be saved in digital form without our written permission.

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