At least three versions of Materazzi’s assumed insult circulated yesterday. Zidane’s agent Alain Migliaccio maintained he was “provoked”, but said Zidane “will not reveal what Materazzi said to him”. Migliaccio nonetheless promised that Zidane “will in one or two days’ time explain why he had such a reaction” in Sunday’s final. The anti-racism group SOS-Racisme said that “according to several very well-informed sources from the world of football” Materazzi called Zidane a “dirty terrorist” – something Materazzi was reported last night to have denied. Zidane’s parents are Algerian immigrants and he campaigns against racism. The Brazilian newspaper Globo showed the video to three deaf and mute teenagers who are skilled at lip-reading. They believe Materazzi said, “Tua sorella è una puttana” (your sister is a prostitute), followed by an obscene gesture. The French website Sport.fr said the latter version was confirmed by a source close to Zidane. Last night, BBC Newsnight reported that Materazzi wished death on Zidane’s family (the French player’s mother was hospitalised on the day of the final) and dismissed him with a profanity. Another report was that Materazzi said: “I slept with your mother last night.” French commentators were divided between those who saw the headbutt as a sign of Zidane’s humanity and still considered him a hero, and those who found his loss of self-control inexcusable
When France and Italy took the field for their World Cup final in Berlin, seven of the 11 French players were black. You may have noticed. Noticing is a normal enough thing to do. Julien Clerc, the fine singer whose mother comes from the French island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, joked on the radio the other morning that if England went out early, it had only itself to blame, considering it had a colonial history like that of France but only a couple of blacks on its squad. Still, the basically black team was a fairly tortured subject here. Because France, in its years of grandeur, placed the idea of being a nation above racism, even blind to color, at the front of its portfolio of myths. Because the conceit of a seamless, multi-racial society that emerged from Les Bleus’ 1998 World Cup title went pschtt only months afterward – then was exposed as an embarrassing fib when riots hit the Paris suburbs last fall. And because of the law. The Constitution says France makes no racial or religious distinctions among its citizens, and French jurisprudence holds that, if information can be collected on individuals’ and their parents’ birthplace and nationality, no data may be compiled on “real or supposed racial or ethnic origin.” So, in a French sense, you couldn’t comfortably count the number of blacks, whites or North Africans playing for France. (Zinédine Zidane, the now retired and slightly less saintly Lord of the Pitch, is of Berber, not Arab, origin). And without real numbers on who’s in this school, or that housing project or prison, or commanding a police precinct or sitting (or more likely, not sitting) in the National Assembly, you can’t put together what a lot of the French believe is the statistical basis needed for a serious fight here against anti-black and anti-Arab discrimination. Instead, you wind up with paragraphs in the newspapers like this one in Le Figaro during France’s advance to the final: “The ‘negritude’ of the French team has become an absolute taboo. And yet it’s the subject that keeps coming back in conversation.”
Read the rest of the story via the link. Pretty tied up this week. Life is a bitch.