Now that Zidane has spoken
Zizou has reinvigorated a controversial debate in a controversial fashion.
July 13, 2006 01:53 PM
Zidane's refusal to reveal exactly what Materazzi said to provoke that headbutt must have been highly frustrating for those with no understanding of the Berber culture.
But if Zidane had repeated those "difficult", "hard" words in his TV interview, he would have been insulting himself, his mother and his sister. There are, of course, many points of view regarding who is to blame in this sorry affair.
There is not much point in trying to change people's minds on an issue as charged as this. But I think it is useful to examine the mindset that led to Zidane acting in the way that he did. We, the Akan of Ghana, have much the same attitude as the Berbers. In our childhood, we are taught that if someone insults another person, and you then go and tell the insulted person what the other person had said, then it is YOU who have insulted him or her. This is obviously done to warn us to avoid back-biting, which, in modern parlance, would be called "bad-mouthing".
African cultures are also different from European cultures in that legal abstractions do not, for the most part, come into play in the dynamic relationships that exist between human beings. The objective of our laws is always to ensure that natural justice is done. Hence, anyone arguing that the reaction to a provocation should be punished, but not the provocation, would receive short shrift
The Akan of Ghana have canonised the idea of cause and effect with a proverb that says, "If nothing had gone and stamped itself on the dried palm leaf, it would not have crackled noisily"
The Zidane episode has led to a re-examination of some of the practices in football that are making the game an abomination to players such as Samuel Eto'o of Barcelona. Is FIFA's campaign, "Say No To Racism" a serious one? At the moment, it seems a grubby one, in which players, and managers who make racist comments, and clubs whose spectators use monkey chants, are merely rapped on the wrist.
If the punishments were severe enough, it would deter others from engaging in such acts. Even Materazzi might have thought twice before provoking Zidane, for fear that he might be charged with racist behaviour.
As Zidane remarked, the episode was witnessed by between one and two billion people, which means that a World Cup Final is perhaps the most global event of our age. FIFA should take advantage of this opportunity to reform and become truly global.
Taking away Zidane's golden football won't solve a problem that will still be rearing its ugly head twenty years from now, unless very firm action is taken today. Zidane has told the world: "I am a man first". It is more a message to FIFA and its European-inspired rules than to anyone else.