Monday, July 10, 2006
'Mes Amis,' I've Got To Hand It To You!
Changing subject for once. Reflections of an inveterate 'Azzuri' fan in the wake of the FIFA 2006 Championship Final.
Mes amis, my friends - I've got to hand it to you: you have a hell of a good team!
Soccer is not only a wonderful game that unites millions of fans around the world, it is also a modern symbol of solidarity on account of its diversity - irrespective of faith, colour of skin, political commitments and affiliations. People are carried away by this beautiful and exciting spectacle. And it is in this spirit that I am writing these few lines, still fresh of the tumultous emotion and fatigue of having watched Italy playing a formidable adversary such as France - and win.
France does not have my devotion - that stays with Italy. But Les Bleus have my profound respect, and that of countless Italian fans. I do not know if that is worth the Cup, but it's got to be worth something. France played superbly well, both in the first and the second half. Italy played superbly well only for the first forty-five minutes and then, of course, at the penalty kicks. But in the second half you really put us in disarray. How we won is probably a question that should be asked of whomever spins the wheel of destiny in this world. Certainly no human can answer that question.
But we won.
Which highlights a fact of life - and of soccer, of course - that is, being better and winning do not go necessarily hand in hand. I am not trying to put down the Italians here. How could I? Ultimately they did equalize and they scored a perfect five at the penalty kicks, whereas the French did not. I am talking, however, about the quality of the game played. Strategy, swiftness, attack and team balance ... those are the qualities that distinguished Les Bleus and of which the Azzurri seemed to be somewhat in short supply. Certainly France could have had a more precise aim in their shots, and Buffon - our goal keeper - is better than Bastien, by far. But to watch Henry, Zizou, Makelele and Ribery come after us every two minutes was no fun - trust me!
If there is one thing that France forgot or otherwise underestimated, however, is the fact that the Azzurri have seven lives, just like cats. They never die. Which, in ultimate analysis, may be the sole explanation as to why they have prevailed.
And what can be said about Zidane, the famous Zidane, who has chosen to head-butt Materazzi? Well, I can certainly state here and now for the record that I would not want to meet Zizou in a back lane at night, that's for sure. This is what happens when there are two billion eyes belonging to one billion viewers all over the world scrutinizing each and every move you make. I am not talking by direct experience here - I do not believe that two people (the equivalent of four eyes, so to speak) have ever cared about what I do at any given time, let alone one billion. But I am saying that pressure manifests itself in different ways for different people.
Zizou flipped. And he directed his anger at the man who had equalized: Materazzi. Afterall it was Zidane's last game, the culmination of a career that puts him at the same level, height and majesty of Pele'. Victory was within reach and Materazzi was the man that had taken it away from him. A human reaction, certainly not a plausible or justifiable one, but human. Considering also that it is unlikely that Zidane would have changed the score during the play. He had tried twice and failed, and was running out of steam. An act of desperation in the heat of the battle, something that the man should not be put on the cross for.
Bottom line, and this is my own personal message to all my French counterparts ... France should be proud of their team. Chirac is right: you should celebrate Les Bleus when they come back to Paris, as they have earned not only the respect of the French, but also of the Italians. Best French player? For me Henry, even better than Zidane.
The Cup stays in Italy, fair enough. But the glory is with you.
Vive la France. Viva l' Italia.
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