N.B.: It is always possible that links below will have expired, or that the link will take you to an archive, where you must part with $3.00 or so for a 750-word article. Another possibility is that a subscription or registration of some sort will be required. We apologize for any inconvenience, noting only that there frankly are too many links on the site to keep up with them all.

If, however, you would like us to find a now-expired article in our archives, we'd be happy to send it to you, if available. Please use the contacts link.


MONACO AND LONDON, 6 APRIL 2004
The Tonsured Not Always Triumphant
Dare we give away too much and call this Black Tuesday? With both Arsenal and Real Madrid unexpectedly exiting the
Click for film website
Zidane and Guti embrace on Tuesday. The Real Madrid advantage was short-lived. (AP photo)
Champions League at the same hour, we had to staunch the saliva that was flowing in anticipation of a dream semifinal between the Gunners and los galácticos. Our zest for Zidane had been piqued on the weekend in the essay by Andrew Hussey ("ZZ Top," The Observer, 4 April), who covered some familiar ground by tracing Zidane's Algerian heritage and cultural significance. The University of Wales scholar, whose specialty is French anarchism, was most engaging, however, in restaging his encounter with Zidane at the Real Madrid training ground off the Paseo de la Castellana. David Beckham arrives in "an absurdly huge four-wheel drive" and attracts an entourage. Not so for Zidane.

The first thing I notice about Zidane is that for a player of such commanding elegance on the field, he is, in person, rather awkward, even gawky. He even sits delicately, like a girl, legs together, hands folded in his lap. My second thought is that he probably is genuinely shy.

A number of cultural scholars and poets have taken their stabs at Zidane, enough that "Zidane lit" is becoming almost a subgenre. See also the New York Times Magazine profile from 1999 (John Vinocur, "Just a Soccer Star, After All," 14 March 1999), where Zidane's Berber heritage and talismanic status for a "new France" were well exegeted, and Mounsi's 20-page prose poem ("Zizou Zidane—The World's Best Player," in Le Foot: The Legends of French Football, ed. Christov Rühn [London: Abacus, 2000], 94–113): "In the stands, on the terraces, everywhere the crowd yells this exclamation: / 'Zizou! Zizou!' / The diminutive makes a circuit of the stadium. / Your comrades clasp you to them. /You kiss Emmanuel Petit."

  • Antibes, Cote d'Azur, France | 14 December 2003 . . . Mickael Madar, Mickael Madar, called "Big Mouth"the erstwhile forward for Everton, Deportivo de La Coruña and the French national side, has opened a school designed for Jewish players. "I reckon there are too few Jews playing football," Madar tells Ben Lyttleton, writing for the Scotsman, "and yet we are just as good as anyone else. That's why I set up my soccer school—with kosher food available. But the school is open to everyone, by the way." Madar also has salty, and unquotable, views on his playing career (link is for adults only). . . . In the same piece, Lyttleton mentions the sad fate of deposed Real Madrid manager Vicente del Bosque, who was fired after his side won La Liga to conclude the 2002–03 campaign. "When they told me I was past it and not modern enough, it hurt. I'm not ashamed to say that when I thought of my 35 years spent at the club, I cried. . . . I'm looking for a job. I want to coach again, be it in Spain or abroad. Four months without working is too much rest. I'd very much like to get an offer, but honestly I've had nothing."
  • Lyon, France | 12 December 2003 . . . French champions Olympique Lyonnais have been frustrated in their attempts to go public and to raise funds to compete with other publicly traded European sides, according to the Financial Times. The initial public offering planned by club chairman Jean-Michel Aulas would raise about €30 million and would represent the next stage in the club's growing popularity. The club, according to the FT's Paul Betts, has sold its brand to restaurants, hair salons, taxi companies and local Beaujolais wine. Regulators in France, however, object to introducing competitive disparities among domestic franchises.
  • Marseille, France | 26 November 2003 . . . Leave it to litterateur and erstwhile Argentine champion Jorge Valdano—who, incidentally, is sporting director for Zidane's tonsured visage keeps watch over MarseilleReal Madrid—to give Zinedine Zidane his place in the pantheon. The French midfielder returned home today in Madrid's 2-1 Champions League victory over Olympique de Marseille. As quoted in Ben Lyttleton's pre-game report in the Irish Examiner, Valdano pegs Zidane as the team's soul:

    He is one of those players that make our intelligence happy. When he touches the ball, things happen in a way that links football with common sense. He is not very quick, not very strong, not a great goal-scorer; and not much of anything really. He is different because he uses football's classical values: he knows when to stop, when to think, when to clarify a move, those things that give breathing space to today's football, a game everyday more scatter-brained.

    Zidane's iconic status is secure in the city where he was raised, a shy son of Algerian immigrants. "He'd spent his childhood playing on the concrete pitches of Marseille's impoverished La Castellane district," the Associated Press writes. "Zidane attributes his remarkable sense of balance and nimble feet to the highly competitive matches played on the concrete dust bowls—where falling down hurts a lot more than it does on grass." His face looks warmly from an Adidas poster painted on the back of a Marseille restaurant (see above). The poster's legend reads, "Made in Marseille." François Thomazeau ("Homecoming of Zidane Is the Real Deal," The Scotsman, 24 November) quotes deputy mayor Serge Botey, who links the poster's popularity to that of the city's talisman, La Bonne Mere (The Good Mother), the Roman Catholic edifice looking down from a hilltop. "The Good Mother was especially good to us when she gave us Zizou." | back to top