I watched yesterday’s World Cup final with my friend, Bill, my Italian-American friend Bill. He is also a Yankees fan from New Jersey. You’re probably asking yourself why I am even friends with this guy. He’s not obnoxious on either account and he’s married to a Red Sox fan, so he is somewhat tamed. I’ve watched some classic Sox-Yankees games with him, from the time Manny beat Mariano with a groundball single up the middle in the ninth inning (circa 2002?) to the time Pedro tossed Zimmer to the Fenway turf. Nonetheless, Swedish Girl asked me why I’d go to the home of an ardent Italy supporter to watch the game, especially since she thought Italy would win. I justified that if Bill and I could withstand years of Sox-Yankees games, then France-Italy should be a breeze.
It hasn’t been enough time for me to digest yesterday’s match. It’s only a game, but I feel like it means more. Just look at how patriotic Germany became during their team’s run to the semi-finals. Sales of jerseys and flags skyrocketed and national pride swelled in a country that has struggled with its identity since East unified with West. Football, namely the World Cup, has the power to halt civil wars in Africa so a poor nation can revel in it’s team’s inclusion on the big stage.
I didn’t mean to get all maudlin there. As a man who calls France his motherland, I feel let down today. I won’t go so far as to call Zinedine Zidane my hero. But my football-playing hero let me down. I’m glad he didn’t get away with the head-butt. He deserved the red card and it would have been worse if he had gotten away with it and scored during the Cup-deciding penalty kicks.
Would he have scored in the remaining 20 minutes of overtime? Would he have taken the PK that Trezeguet missed? Did his team suffer a collective let-down after their captain did the unthinkable and deserted them? No one can answer these questions, but we do know for sure that Zidane let his team down, let his country down, and tarnished his legacy, which would have been mythical win or lose. I just can’t imagine how he’ll cope with that red card being his final moment on the pitch. It’s not quite the day after Game 7 in 2003, but with national pride on the line, it stings in a different way. And to Captain Larby, I say congratulazione e schifozo!