Spanish paper El Mundo includes an interactive graphic titled “Clases de baile” (Dance classes), demonstrating Zidane’s balletic movement. The feature breaks down Zizou’s space-creating move, la ruleta (“the roulette”). See also the video collection at Real Madrid’s official site (registration required).
Madrid | With pledges “to leave it all behind” and to start playing the game with children, archetypal playmaking midfielder Zinédine Zidane has announced his retirement from football following the World Cup finals. Typically, the 33-year-old player for Real Madrid and France looked sheepish facing the bank of microphones and cameras at Wednesday’s press conference. “Yes, he is shy,” said France teammate Thierry Henry in an Observer interview earlier this month,
but you know he can do things with his feet that some people can’t even do with their hands. Sometimes when he plays the ball it seems like he is dancing.
Zidane’s graceful movement has stayed a theme through his playing career with Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Madrid. “Pure ballet,” remarked Scottish Arts Council chief Richard Holloway of Zidane’s sublime volley in the 2002 Champions League final in Glasgow (see 14 Feb 2005). We periodically replay the game-winning strike that came shortly before halftime against Bayer Leverkusen. The coiled anticipation with which Zidane greets the left-footed, hitched cross from Roberto Carlos still inspires.
“We’re losing an artist and a great talent, a man who has left his mark on world football,” says former France midfielder Christian Karembeu. With Zidane’s exit, just six others from the 1998 World Cup–winning side remain available for selection. “I think he is a symbol who has brought happiness and peace to people.”
Cue the videotape: Zidane about to make it 2–1 on 15 May 2002.
Swiss journalist and photographer Philippe Dubath, too, calls Zidane an artist. Certainly, Zidane has been a muse for the author of Zidane et moi: Lettre d’un footballeur í sa femme (Zidane and me: A letter from a footballer to his wife), published in Switzerland in 2002 (Éditions de l’Aire). The 84-page chapbook takes the form of one long correspondence to the writer’s wife, Nanon, explaining the meaning of football and its place in the male psyche: “Football has explained to me, completely and gradually,” writes Dubath, “who I am: a child, who plays gladly, and an adult who loves this child he feels inside.”
The book includes childlike illustrations from Lausanne painter and engraver Zivoslav Ivanovic, who uses the shortened Zivo. Although Zidane plays with a serious expression and often seems to be toiling, the idea of childhood attaches itself to him, perhaps because of his diffidence and self-conscious mannerisms in interviews. In his 2004 Observer profile, Andrew Hussey says that Zidane “sits delicately, like a girl, legs together, hands folded in his lap.”
It is while in motion and while sparking creativity from the center of the park, though, that Zidane seems most to convey a tot’s innocent joy in space. To his credit is the deceptively simple spin turn that he calls la roulette, branded “the Marseilles turn” in PlayStation games and also known as a double dragback. As a ploy to wrong-foot defenders, Zidane spins while shifting the ball quickly between feet, stepping on the ball to help propel a rapid change in direction. It happens much faster than the time it takes to describe. (An example occurs halfway through Dubath’s interview with Swiss television program Sang d’encre. Such improvisations will also feature in the film making its debut next month at Cannes, Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle.)
Such creations by Zivo illustrate Dubath’s book.
A clip from a Real Madrid training session has stayed in our minds. To return a ball to a teammate, Zidane drags a ball back beneath his right boot, flicks it aloft with his left and, again with his right, half-volleys the sphere cross-field. We have been trying to duplicate this move for the last four years. Says Argentina’s Pablo Aimar: “When you are watching a Real Madrid game, it is worth spending an hour and a half in front of the television to watch Zidane make one cut with the ball.” Another Argentine and Real Madrid’s honorary chairman, Alfredo Di Stéfano, famously said that Zidane plays “as if he had silk gloves on each foot.”
This close control is a Zidane signature, but he has been less able to control the cultural fallout from his role in France’s ’98 victory. Le Figaro, in the swell of World Cup glory, labeled the good feeling resulting from the team’s multicultural hues “l’effet Zidane.” Soon, the man of the olive skin and friar’s tonsure could be characterized by a thumbnail sketch: the son of Berbers from the Kabylie region in Algeria, the boy from the hard playing courts of La Castellane in Marseilles, the face of new France. As a disastrous friendly between France and Algeria in October 2001 foretold, such tidy summaries are fair neither to the individual nor polity. Zidane was hooted, fans rushed the pitch in the 75th minute, and the match was abandoned.
Aspirants in the French underclasses sought Zidane as a projection for desires, but the wealthy man who speaks so softly that one must strain to hear does not suit them. He is a non-practicing Muslim; it is not known if he speaks Arabic. “Zidane is a fake,” Hussey quotes an Arab fan of Paris Saint-Germain as saying.
“His image is too pure. He is afraid to say what he is, that he is a beur [Parisian slang for Arab] like the rest of us. And to say the truth about what it is like to be an Arab in this society.” Other PSG supporters, Arab followers of “Mystic Tigris,” agree loudly that Zidane is an ad man’s dream, a triumph of style. “I support PSG because I am from Seine-Saint-Denis,” says Joey, a large black kid who looks as if he would be more at home in south central LA than in this cold, bleak stadium at the heart of one of the most bourgeois districts in Paris. “But I don’t care about Les Bleus, or Zidane. It’s not my tribe.”
Zidane, if healthy, will finish the season for Real Madrid and play at least three games at the World Cup. Any burdens on the man whose face lit the Arc de Triomphe on 12 July 1998 will likely cease to be known, and any questioning can be easily deflected, as he demurred when asked about the burdens of being the world’s best player.
It is an easy burden to carry, Zidane said, “because I don’t believe it.”
On May 8, L’Equipe honors two Frenchmen on the front page. El Mundo hosts an excellent photo essay on its website.
On May 7, Zidane played his last match at the Santiago Bernabéu for Real Madrid, scoring a headed goal and coming off with three minutes remaining. Madrid and Villareal tied 3–3. After the game, Zidane walked reluctantly to the center of the pitch for a five-minute ovation. Clad in an undershirt, having exchanged jerseys with Juan Román Riquelme, he looked fragile, almost birdlike. Writing in the Guardian, Sid Lowe takes it from there:
For all the ceremony, the banners and the scoreboard projections—which, by half-time had given way to credit cards and talking sausages—Zidane bowed out of Madrid Zidane-style. Timidly, awkwardly, humbly. Without a hint of arrogance. By scoring a goal in a magnificently open match (a goal which Raúl, desperate after a 16-game drought, very nearly took off him), by departing with three minutes left, almost embarrassedly applauding the fans as he left, and by waiting quietly, patiently in the tunnel to swap shirts…. Above all, by needing to be literally pushed back out on to the pitch, where David Beckham was still alone in the centre-circle applauding the fans, to receive a huge ovation before turning, head down, a tear in his eye, and departing the Bernabéu for the last time, slipping quietly away from the stadium without a word.
With the debut of the Zidane film approaching, Gary Younge, again in the Guardian, learns of filmmaker Douglas Gordon‘s affection for Albert Camus and of the relationship between existentialism and the Zidane oeuvre. Naturally there is the Algerian tie-in, but throughout the film Zidane’s comments, used as subtitles, reveal a football player “trying to make sense of his working life.” In conversations with Gordon and collaborator Philippe Parreno, born in Oran, Algeria, as with Camus and Zidane’s family, Zizou’s utterances show gnomic quality:
The game, the event, is not necessarily experienced or remembered in “real time.” My memories of games and events are fragmented. … I remember playing in another place, at another time, when something amazing happened. Someone passed the ball to me, and before even touching it, I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew I was going to score. It was the first and last time it ever happened.