‘Clases de baile’ | Zidane’s dance class takes final turn

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.

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