11 July 2006

Being John Materazzovich

Zinedine Zidane was born in a lower-class family from a bad area of Marseille, from non-French parents.

Marco Materazzi was born in the luxury of a "football family", his father a successful player and then manager in the Italian Serie A.

Zinedine Zidane was born gifted with flexible ankles and delicate feet, making him an almost natural footballer from the age of 12. Some of his goals and gestures will forever be part of football history.

Marco Materazzi was to be known on the Italian pitches for the rude treatment he reserved to the ball and to the opponents' legs.

Zinedine Zidane struggled to be accepted in the professional leagues, because he was "too slow". So he built up his physique like a rugby player, becoming a terrific midfielder. He was playing well with a surprising Bordeaux, but exploded as One of The Greatest Footballers Ever with an infamously "pumped-up" Juventus team (whose medical team was later convicted of cheating anti-doping regulations).

Marco Materazzi struggled to be accepted as a top-flight footballer. He participated in several campaigns with the national Under-21 team, but had to emigrate to Liverpool to get a regular place in a club line-up. In Italy, he was considered a rough player without any class, and supporters of his clubs were usually quite ashamed of him.

Zinedine Zidane won everything with Juventus in a few years. It was discovered in 2006 that the Italian Serie A results were fixed to favour Juventus.

Marco Materazzi played for ages in an Inter Milan club that never managed to win anything, no matter how many stars they bought. It was discovered in 2006 that the Italian Serie A results were fixed to penalise Inter Milan.

Zinedine Zidane earns a lot, from sponsors and advertisers as much as from his team. He is a global icon, a brand. People from the five continents adore him.

Marco Materazzi earns like an average Italian footballer. He would probably go unnoticed while shopping at Tesco. Many "supporters" regularly "boo" him.

Zinedine Zidane won the World Cup in a team composed by a "blessed generation" of wonderful players. He won the Golden Ball for the best European player several times, like his teammate Thierry Henry.

Marco Materazzi won the World Cup in a team of average players, "late bloomers" who struggled to play at all in Serie A. He'll never win any individual trophy.

Zinedine Zidane was begged by the French manager to play in the World Cup.

Marco Materazzi was considered almost unworthy of being capped, and he had to be only a backup for the more gifted Alessandro Nesta. The other central defender, Fabio Cannavaro, played all the time for the entire campaign; it was expected for Nesta to do the same, but he got injured, Materazzi went in, and in less than 5 minutes he had scored a match-breaking goal. He ended up being Italy's top-scorer with two goals, together with striker Luca Toni.

Zinedine Zidane is famous for disappearing from the match for hours, especially when things don't go "according to plan".

Marco Materazzi can't stop running and fighting for a minute, or the striker will be free to score at will.

Zinedine Zidane, last sunday, scored a penalty awarded for a clear dive. He's a quality midfielder.

Marco Materazzi, last sunday, scored in live action, with a powerful header, jumping over a player as strong as Patrick Vieira. He's a defender.

Zinedine Zidane, last sunday, reacted with mindless violence to a standard insult, one that he had probably heard so many times already on the pitches of Marseille, Turin, the entire Europe. He left his team without the natural penalty-taker, a few minutes before going to penalties.

Marco Materazzi pretty much received and dished insults for his entire career, while fighting inside the crowded box, trying to steal the ball from more gifted forwards that took pleasure in humiliating defenders as static as him, or reacting to the unforgiving Italian press. He has made mistakes before, but never while representing his country in the most-watched competition on Earth. Last sunday, he scored an equaliser for his team, "nullified" Thierry Henry as much as possible, and then proceeded to take and score a decisive (as much as unusual, for him) penalty to win the World Cup for his team.

Zinedine Zidane is being publicly "forgiven" for physically assaulting a "brute" defender.

Marco Materazzi will always be condemned for being a "classless" defender.

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