'Ode to defeat': Zidane headbutt immortalized in bronze statue

Story highlights

  • A bronze statue of Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi unveiled
  • The piece outside Paris' Pompidou Museum is the work of Adel Abdessemed
  • The headbutt occurred in the 2006 World Cup final, which Italy won on penalties
  • Zidane is regarded as one of the finest footballers in history

Books have been written about him, a film was devoted to following his every move on a football field and now the career of French icon Zinedine Zidane has been immortalized in bronze.

From Cannes to Real Madrid -- his first and last clubs -- Zidane's career was characterized by moments of audacity and greatness.

None more so than when he scored a brace which helped win the World Cup for France on home soil in 1998, or one of the greatest goals of all time in the 2002 European Champions League final in Real Madrid's 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow.

But Algerian-born artist Adel Abdessemed was less interested in the zenith of Zidane's career.

Instead he has focused on its nadir -- the Frenchman's infamous headbutting of Italy's Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final in Zidane's last professional game.

"This statue goes against the tradition of making statues in honour of certain victories. It is an ode to defeat," exhibition organizer Alain Michaud told Agence France Presse after the five meter statue was unveiled in the French capital city of Paris outside the world-renowned Pompidou Museum.

The statue captures the moment when, with the scores level at 1-1 between France and Italy in Berlin in football's biggest game, Zidane was given a straight red card for his assault on Materazzi deep into extra-time.

France went on to lose the match on penalties, when striker David Trezeguet saw his spot kick crash into the crossbar and Fabio Grosso converted to crown Italy world champions.

Exactly what Materazzi said to draw such a violent reaction from Zidane remains unknown.

U.S. animated comedy Family Guy parodied the incident in the 2006 episode "Saving Private Brian", where Zidane headbutts an old lady while delivering her a birthday cake.

Widely regarded as one of the finest footballers to have ever played the game, Zidane playedfor Cannes and Bordeaux in France, before moving to Juventus and then Real.

The Algerian-born playmaker scored twice as France beat Brazil 3-0 in the World Cup final of 1998.

He is also remembered for the stunning goal which won Real Madrid a ninth European Cup in 2002, when he converted a Roberto Carlos cross with a stunning volley against Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park.

Zidane, who retired immediately after the 2006 final, was crowned FIFA World Player of the Year on three occasions.

He now works as Real Madrid director of football, while his three sons are all members of the club's youth academy.

Read: Down the rabbit hole: Depression in the Premier League

Zidane is not the first footballer to be honored with a permanent monument to his on-field achievements.

Wembley Stadium, the home of English fooball, is decorated with a statue of Bobby Moore, the defender who captained the country to its only World Cup triumph in 1966.

Carlos Valderrama is the most-capped player in Colombia's history, famous for his flair and outrageous afro and the midfielder has a statue in his hometown of Santa Marta, complete with frizzy golden locks.

But it is not just players who have been the subject of sculptures.

Azerbaijani linesman Tofiq Bahramov, who ruled that England's controversial third goal had crossed the line in the 1966 final, has a statue outside of the stadium named in his honor in his homeland.

Perhaps most unusually of all, English Premier League team Fulham has a sculpture of the late pop icon Michael Jackson outside its Craven Cottage stadium. The club's owner Mohamed al Fayed was a close friend of Jackson's prior to his death in 2009.

Zidane's statue will remain outside the Pompidou Museum until the end of the Abdessemed exhibition in January.

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