Soccer players are stupid. Actually, that’s not true – Soccer is a great game with a lot of history and athleticism, but it is played at the professional level by a large number of boors and morons, whose behavior is excused by equally boorish and stupid fans.
As an example, take the latest dust-up in international sports; the deliberate head-butting of Italy’s Marco Materazzi by France’s Zinedine Zidane. Zidane acted in what might be excused as a moment of hot emotion, but in his public “apology”, Zidane said he has no regrets. He'd do it again, just the same way.
That’s what a boor says. That’s what a moron says. A boor, because Soccer is a game played as much through teamwork and finesse as force and individual skill, as a representative of your team and country more than just thinking of yourself. Zidane’s head-but was a vulgar representation of French sportsmanship, especially as Zidane is a captain – I note that France has not stripped him of that title, which implies support for such conduct. French culture is not all it pretends to be, I guess. And Zidane is a moron on oh, so many levels. First off, while American athletes can be and are total jerks at times, even they understand that you try not to do stupid fouls where the referee can see it, and especially not at critical moments. I have known pitchers who really wanted to hit a batter – one of my personal most-hated cheap shots – but waited until several games later, simply because they did not want to give the other team an advantage in a game, or be that obvious in front of a wary umpire. Deliberately head-butting someone in a tie game, with not only an official watching but a worldwide broadcast, with the whole world title on the line, is incredibly stupid and selfish. I wonder how many of the French team feel that Zidane might have done better to use his vaunted athleticism for the team instead of his pride?
But there’s more. Today’s little stunt just underlined Zidane’s name in every FIFA official’s mind. He’s a ‘man before he’s a footballer’ eh? That just about puts every future bump, trip or contact with a rival player in a different focus. What Zidane did by tossing out that comment, was the professional equivalent of throwing the finger to a policeman; it’s not illegal, but he’s just guaranteed the kind of attention and scrutiny which can only work against him. The only words to describe that kind of career are synonymous with selections referring to a severely diminished mental capacity.
In my years as an official, I cringed whenever some pro jock pulled an unsportsmanlike stunt like that, because I knew that the kids would copy the same behavior in the youth leagues – it was cool and appropriate in their minds, because their heroes did it, whether ‘it’ was trash-talking, fistfights over words, or risking debilitating injuries in order to get in a cheap shot. Zidane can take pride, I am sure, of the influence he has in degrading the level of play on the field. Zidane did it, and so many little children playing Soccer will follow his lead, especially seeing as how he made sure to defend his foul as some kind of a noble act, putting personal pride well above any strength of restraint or character. I hope he soon comes to understand just how petty and little he showed himself to be.