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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
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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." | back to top