Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Love Football, Racism


There has been much written over the last few days about Zidane’s chest butt exit from the World Cup. I havent written anything because I have been so disgusted with the media and blogsophere’s general response about him being shamed and leaving in disgrace etc etc. For me there is no need for Zidane to feel any shame neither has he disgraced himself. Last night I was with a group of Senegalise friends and one of them had just come in from Paris. The story she said was that Materazzi had made a racist remark and insulted his mother. His team mate Trezeguet said the Italians had been trying to wind up Zidane since the start of the match. Maybe we will never know but FIFA and everyone else needs to focus on the racism on the pitch rather than condemn one of the world’s greatest footballers to football purgatory forever – but that would be too easy – FIFA, the British and French media do not want to face the truth. The Spanish coach, Luis Aragonés calls Thierry Henry ” A black shit” and gets a measly fine of 3000 euros! Why wasnt he sent off in disgrace and shamed forever? Because racism is OK but chest butts – well you really overstepped the mark there!

There is racism on the terraces, on the pitch and in the streets. STOP PRETENDING IT ISNT THERE and as Jay Sennett (who I didnt even know was a football fan) writes – hate speech is violence.

At to that the persistent racist behavior that is very much tolerated by FIFA and you get a Zinedine Zidane of France headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest at the 110 minute of the game (read: second overtime).

The head butt was not a result of ball play but from what appeared to be comments made by Materazzi to Zidane. Zidane is one of the very best players in the world and has claimed he would retire after this World Cup final.

Despite being ejected from the game, I thought Zidane must have been provoked to lose his icy cool. Leave it to the Times of London to engage the services of an expert lip reader and translator to claim then that Materazzi

called Zidane “the son of a terrorist whore” before adding “so just f*** off” for good measure, supporting the natural assumption that the Frenchman must have been grievously insulted.

The son of a terrorist whore.

As the son of two Algerian immigrants, the 34-year-old is proud of his North African roots, dedicating France’s 1998 World Cup win to “all Algerians who are proud of their flag and all those who have made sacrifices for their family but who have never abandoned their own culture”, so such a slur would certainly explain, if not justify, his violent response.

Nevermind that Materazzi’s denies the allegations and points to his friendship with Obafemi Martins, the Nigeria and Inter Milan striker, to prove he isn’t racist. Nevermind that he claims he is uncultured and doesn’t even know what an “Islamic terrorist” is.

What I find very common and indicative of the way hate functions around the world is that Materrazi’s words are not seen as violent, too. Jock-asses worldwide spew garbage and aren’t ejected from the game. Zidane is though, because physicality is, you know, violent.

Words are just supposed to be words, you know, sticks and stones.

But words can hit just as hard as a fist. Until we acknowledge globally that what we say about or to someone can devastate them as much as a fist, then I don’t know if we will ever get out of this self-generated turmoil we’re in right now…………………How about ejecting the Materazzis from the game. How about telling the one of critics who claim Zidane put his feelings ahead of his team, thereby breaking the cardinal rule of sports, well what if Matrrazzi had punched Zidane in the heart?

Would his head-butt be more understandable then? Acceptable?

I sound like I’m arguing for violence. I’m not. What I am arguing for is a greater acknowledgement that language is violent and used to wreck havoc in the listener.

Thanks Jay – an excellent post.


  1. This is the comment I left on Jay Sennett’s site:

    No doubt, violence does not only come in the physical form- it can be verbal as well as emotional.

    Your argument as much as I can emotively relate to it holds no water.

    Racism exists everywhere, and it’s particularly common in the sports fields and arena. The question I would ask Zidane is that would he drop his racket and attack Materazzi if they had been playing tennis? Or if the statement had come from the stand, would he run up the aisle and head butt the offender?

    Statements such as Materazzi’s are not uncommon on the sports field, the more physical the sport is the more common these kinds of statement. And as wrong as it is, is “the son of a terrorist whore” really a racist statement? Does this statement make Materazzi a racist just like that? What if Materazzi developed instant cardiac arrest and died right there on the field, would you and other justify Zidane’s headbutt action?

    Beside no matter how one tries to rationalize it, a verbal action (verbal abuse, curse words, racial slurs) will forever be of lesser consequence than a physical action (blow, stab, slap, shoot), legally speaking that is. This is all about the rule of law ( as twisted as it may be); Zidane screwed up pretty badly, he knows and you and others should!

  2. Hi sokari,

    I already addressed imnakoya at my site.

    Thank you for your kind words. Frankly, I didn’t know I was a football fan, either, until I saw Zidane.

    My great sadness is that I probably won’t ever get to see him play again.

    On a different note, I wish that all the footballers of color, and their white allies, would simply boycott a game or two or ten in protest over the racism that is so very tolerated in the world of football.

    Or add something to their contracts that the owners have to pay them lots of money if comments are made by opposing players or fans.

    Make it expensive to practice or tolerate bigotry.

    Now, how can I watch more football in the U.S.? (Our team this year was simply terrible, and we have no excuse!)and who should I watch???

  3. Comment by post author


    Imnakoya: It seems to be that there is much hypocrisy and little consistency by FIFA officials and the media. None of these bodies focus on racism nor do they acknowledge it as a form of violence. Their response to racism doesn’t even begin to reach the level of the response to this unfortunate incident. And that is the pity of it all.

    The fact that racism is an every day occurrence and happens on the pitch and terrace needs to be dealt with not dismissed and there lies the problem and why it persists – no one wants to take it seriously – we are all supposed to put up and shut up with racist, sexist and homophobic abuse — oh its just part of life, take no notice. I don’t agree that words will be of a “lesser consequence…… than physical action”. Words can hurt and can destroy let there be no doubt about that.

    Jay – boycotting games. I agree but cant see it happening – players just put up and shut up. If they would start refusing to play and their team mates join in then maybe some change might happen.
    Who you should watch – Arsenal, of course

  4. jay tinley

    you write:

    Now, how can I watch more football in the U.S.? (Our team this year was simply terrible, and we have no excuse!)and who should I watch???

    If you want to watch football in the USA, in the fall there are college games on TV Saturday afternoons, NFL games all day Sundays, plus another NFL game on Monday nights.


  5. dan noland

    So much of any high-level competition is mental— if player from team A can “get inside the head” of player on team B, team A will win, simple as that (barring lopsided talent levels). Regardless of the speculation of what Matterazi might have said (and its just that, speculation), Zidane was obviously vulnerable to this kind of manipulation. Its too late for him to learn (if he indeed retires) but hopefully younger players out there will learn the value of keeping poised in challenging situations, and the cost of not doing so.

  6. Comment by post author


    Dan: You mean racism? Why not just say it – why hide behind fancy phrases – Zidane is vulnerable to “racist manipulation” well thats simply awful.

    Hopefully younger players will learn not to put up with racism and make a stand against it (see above).

  7. as wrong as it was, i fully understand zidane’s actions.

  8. Irena

    You know what, many may condemn him for the now joke of the world headbutt but he made a statement . I don’t understand why everyone keeps talking about its football and racial slur will always be there ,so the players are supposed to ignore it and continue playing like nothign is really happening. This is the kind of thinking that has actually escalated the problem .The acceptance that it is expected and so lets move on. You know what Zidane made a statement world cup ,final game or no and I’m even more proud of him after his interview. No apologies! He is more of man, best player than that Italian will ever be!

  9. Irena

    I meant, proud that he had no regrets!

  10. Firstly, what an excellent post. My views are fully represented in it.

  11. @ Irena

    “I don’t understand why everyone keeps talking about its football and racial slur will always be there ,so the players are supposed to ignore it and continue playing like nothign is really happening.”

    I tend to believe otherwise. How easy would it be for Samuel Eto’o to continue playing when monkey chants are made each time he touches the ball? Like you and I, Eto’o is human and has emotions.

    Zidane erred, but then he’s only human. He would forever be remembered as one of the greatest footballers ever. The mainstream media blew the entire incident out of proportion.

  12. Sokari, how many times do we tell our children not to hit back? How many times do we tell them that violence doesn’t solve anything? Zidane was the greatest footballer of his generation, but that butt tainted him somewhat. Materazzi’s words were horrendous no doubt, but Zidane’s reaction were no less so. Heaven knows I wanted a glorious exit for Zidane, it was happening – until the 110th minute.

  13. Comment by post author


    Nkem – I hear what you are saying absolutely – what he did was a red card offence and rightly he was sent off for it — I have no problem with that decision.

    Nonetheless one needs to look at his behaviour in the context of his 15 year plus professional career. As Chippla wrote, he erred but he is human and we all make mistakes. (who knows how he feels and what personal price he is paying right now?). I am saddened by what happened but I am just don’t feel he is disgraced or shamed by the incident which is the way it is being played out in the MSM.

    It is unfortunate that they dont shout with the same voice over racist incidents on the terraces and pitch – like I said why wasn’t the Spanish coach disgraced and shamed? There is no consistency in the response from the media or FIFA who need to start handing out red cards for racist offences and insisting that local FA’s get the racists of the terraces or pay the price of exclusion. But it is so much easier to condemn Zidane.

    As a mother I would tell my child that this is not an appropriate response and that there are other ways to deal with racism and hate behaviour. I would also tell them that people are human and we all make mistakes sometimes. The main thing is that we learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them.

  14. “As a mother I would tell my child that this is not an appropriate response and that there are other ways to deal with racism and hate behaviour. I would also tell them that people are human and we all make mistakes sometimes. The main thing is that we learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them.” Sokari, pls
    don’t turn me into a cry baby. whao post!

  15. Comment by post author


    Beauty 🙂 BUT its true sha? we are all human and make mistakes –

  16. Comment by post author


    Beauty as an afterthought — In my adult life I have never hit anyone and cant imagine doing such a thing but it is not because I haven’t felt like doing so. To be honest sometimes I feel like strangling people but one sanctions and controls oneself because we have been brought up to understand that kind of behaviour is not acceptable. I would be disgusted with myself anyway.

    But words can be as hurtful as physical blows and I have been both the giver and receiver of hurtful words. Why is it that we accept that physical violence is wrong whereas we are prepared to engage in and accept verbal violence?

  17. sokari,

    “But words can be as hurtful as physical blows and I have been both the giver and receiver of hurtful words. Why is it that we accept that physical violence is wrong whereas we are prepared to engage in and accept verbal violence?”

    This, for me, is the key issue. We are so accustomed world-wide to accepting verbal abuse of all kinds that we have taught ourselves to diminish its impact in our lives and its effect in societies.

    We all agree that racist slurs are wrong, but we are unwilling to address them on an equal level as physical violence.

    What if the ref had red carded Materazzi? What if FIFA banned the Spanish coach for life?

    What would to all of us if we finally admitted openly that words are as violent as hands or fists?

    @ Ababoy ~ Thank you.

    And I will definitely check out Arsenal!

  18. racism is alive and kicking in this world. nomatter where you go you see peopel scornig you make rude remarks about your culture. your mother and try to push you into retaliating. frankly speaking I do not understand whta people gain from demeaning others besides show how big idiots they are.

  19. obi

    excellent post and my sentiments exactly. never mind sticks and stones.

  20. You higlight another very interesting side of this that I had not really considered in depth – the issue of speech as a weapon (of itself or as a tool).

    Blatter and his boys has this beautiful pre-World cup song and dance that I bought wholesale on what they would do to fight racism. Well, I will not be “bitten” again.

    The more I consider it though, the more I like what Zizou did. I saw some interviews he gave that were screened on the CBC here that give me the distinct impression that he very consciously chose to plant that head butt and make a statement.

    At some point, you simply have to do something.

    – Steve

  21. Comment by post author


    Yes – FIFA – talk with forked tongue!

    It’s interesting what you say about Zidane doing this consciously. Someone else said that he watched the incident over and over and that the chest butt was not a reflex action but he actually hesitated as if he was thinking. Maybe he thought this is my last chance, my last game and I am sick of this shit which I have had to put up with for xx years so I am going to do it today and to hell with the consequences. Does that make it better or worse – difficult to say.

    Players need to start walking of the pitch if FIFA and their respective clubs dont start acting. It will be interesting to see how people like Eto’o and his team mates react to racism in the coming season. If Ashley Cole ends up in Spain he will face the same thing.

  22. Comment by post author


    Singing for Zidane

    Zidane l’atappe

    The Street Speaks

  23. Sewere


    I tried responding to the previous comment I made but the comment somehow got deleted and now I can’t seem to find the previous posting with the comment. My question regarding Zidane’s statement was not to lump him in the same racist category as Metarazzi nor was it to say since Zidane was racist everyone is racist and no one should say anything. My point was that Zidane was being ambiguous about what Metarazzi said, stating he said “some serious and personal things about my mother and sister.” Given my experience hanging with and playing soccer with non-black French (including Arab-French) guys, I’ve heard my share of racist comments at gatherings and games. This is why I was a bit angry at what I consider a tepid accusation and considered it a possibility that Zidane’s statement might be as a result of comments he himself could have made (Again in a sport were insults are used as part of psychological intimidation, subtle racist comments can be seen as such)

    Back to my issue, why didn’t he say “Metarazzi made blatantly racist remarks; he called my mother a terrorist “whore” and made similar remarks about my sister. I mean think about it, why didn’t Metarazzi repeat what he actually said on the field? Why is he going back and forth? I mean even though some might say I reacted harshly, I expect that FIFA should take action on the matter given the heavy stance against racism in the sport we love so much.”

    And now we have the results in by FIFA, Metarazzi receives a slap on the wrist compared to Zidane’s fines. I despise the fact that the burden of proof lies on the person who suffers racist attack, but a stronger accusationw would have gone a long way to push FIFA to act on their word.