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Zinedine Zidane On this day in 2006, legend's final act as a player left his name in tatters

On this day in 2006, Zinedine Zidane headbutted Materazzi in his final act as a player.

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Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi play On this day in 2006, Zinedine Zidane head butted Materazzi (Reuters)

Zinedine Zidane had done everything to beat Gianluigi Buffon for the second time that night at the Olympiastadion Berlin but to no avail.

It was the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy.

Zidane’s second World Cup title was the target and being the last game of his football career, the midfield maestro was in search of a climaxing glory.

He had scored a seventh-minute penalty to give France the lead but a Marco Materazzi header just over 10 minutes later brought Italy back in the game.

Zinedine Zidane play Zinedine Zidane failed in his bid to get his hands on a second World Cup title ( Eddy LEMAISTRE/Corbis via Getty Images)

 

It was a tight World Cup final but as the game wore on, France had the better chances to win the game with Zidane in the centre of everything.

Having finally broken into the elite at the 1998 World Cup in France, Zidane was having another great campaign, leading France to wins over Spain, Brazil and Portugal in the knockout stages.

Against Italy in the final, he was having a great game again, but Italy and Buffon stood between him and another World Cup title.

In extra-time of that game, Zidane almost found a way through, jumping to get his head on a Willy Sagnol cross but Buffon did well to tip the ball over the crossbar.

Some minutes later, Zidane briefly exchanged words with Materazzi before he went on to head-butt the Italy defender, earning himself a red card and ending his prolific career in the most controversial manner.

Without Zidane, Frane went on to lose the final via a penalty shoot-out.

Although that wasn’t his first red-card for headbutting, that incidence brought lots of questions to Zidane’s character, a legend who had always carried himself with class.

Zinedine Zidane play Zinedine Zidane's last act as a player was being sent off in a World Cup final in 2006 (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Video evidences suggested that Materazzi had verbally provoked Zidane. Several reports suggested that the Materazzi defender had called Zidane ‘the son of a terrorist whore’ although the Italy defender disputed the claim.

Zidane later explained that he had been provoked after repeated harsh insults about his mother from Materazzi. The Italian also later admitted to talking trash to Zidane because of the playmaker’s arrogance during the game but denied insulting his mother.

 

On the incident, Zidane once told French radio station RTL; "Let's not forget that provocation is a terrible thing. I have never been one to provoke; I have never done it. It's terrible, and it is best not to react"

If you look at the 14 red cards I had in my career, 12 of them were a result of provocation,” he also once said in another interview.

This isn't justification, this isn’t an excuse, but my passion, temper and blood made me react.”

In the eye of the storm, Zidane retired and withdrew. He voluntarily served three days of community service on FIFA's behalf as a substitute for the three-match ban he received for the headbutting and quietly went into coaching.

Zinedine Zidane play Zidane won three straight Champions League titles as Real Madrid boss (Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images)

 

The story of his rise as a coach has been well told, from working as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid to being in charge of the B team.

In January 2016, he was appointed Real Madrid manager following the dismissal of Rafael Benitez. In every season as Real Madrid boss, Zidane won the Champions League an unprecedented three consecutive times. He also won La Liga title in 2017.

It’s exactly 12 years today Zidane left the game with his name in tatters, but he has since shone on return without provocation.

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