A row is brewing over a giant bronze sculpture now on display outside the Pompidou Arts Centre in Paris which depicts French footballer Zinedine Zidane’s now infamous head butt on Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup Final.
The row has been as predictable as the original head butt which inspired the statue was unexpected. The 5 metre (16 feet) high statue of French footballing icon Zinedine Zidane, or Zizou as he is affectionately known by football fans worldwide, is a work of French, Algerian born artist Adel Abdessemed. The Pompidou Centre in Paris is honouring his work with a retrospective running from October through to January, reports Lebanon’s Daily Star.
The exhibit outside one of Paris’ most popular arts centres has outraged French football officials and associations who are claiming that it is not an appropriate image of Zizou, a French national hero, who retired from the game after the 2006 World Cup Final.
According to sports website Marca.com, around 30 regional presidents of French football have asked Zinedine Zidane to request removal of the statue immortalizing in bronze the head-butt Zizou planted on Marco Materazzi which resulted in the Italian defender going down like the proverbial sack of potatoes.
During the 2006 World Cup Final, which went to extra time, as Zidane and Materazzi were jogging up the pitch close to each other, they appeared to briefly exchange words after Materazzi was spotted tugging Zidane's jersey. Zidane began to walk away from the other player but a moment later, Zidane suddenly stopped, turned round and head-butted Materazzi's chest, knocking the Italian to the ground. After consulting the fourth official, the referee issued Zidane with a red card in the 110th minute. It marked the fourteenth sending off in Zidane's otherwise exalted career, and he earned the unusual distinction of being only the second player ever to have been sent off in two separate World Cup tournaments. The 2006 final in Berlin went to a penalty shoot out which Italy won.
Alain Seban of the Pompidou Centre chief expressed shock at the complaints, saying they amounted to an attempt to censure artistic creativity but the group of French football presidents believe that the Zidane sculpture is "provocative."
"By choosing this provocative image, the artist has deliberately opted to ignore all your talents and all the positive emotions that you were able to share with the people of our country," the officials wrote in an open letter to Zidane, calling upon the former player to use his full influence to have the statue ‘red carded’ immediately. The officials suggested that a more appropriate image would have been a representation the two headed goals scored by Zidane which helped propel the French national side to an historic 3-0 win over Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final.