Zineddine Zidane, A Gaulian Departure
Only genius tactician knows how to deal with these instinctive moments of courage, glory and pride.
By Abdennour Toumi
Once again, Zineddine Zidane (ZZ) stunned the world-wide fans of the round soccer ball, the media, and even his boss, Real Madrid President Florentini Pérez, by calling a press conference to announce his departure as a Real Madrid FC coach, his departure from the Merengue mythical Spanish and European club, where Zizou spent two decades as a player, Real Madrid reserved team (Castilla), Real Madrid FC Assistant coach and coach, who just won the thirteenth European Champions League Cup for the club, and his third European consecration in arrow as coach, no coach has done it before.
This time, unlike the infamous dramatic finish that played like an Italian Opera at the 110th minute in extra time of the 2006 World Cup finale match France vs. Italy, Zineddine Zidane a player surprised a billion viewers around the globe by a head-butt to the Italian defender.
The world-wide masses and media started to ask: How could the Maestro of the Round Ball behave in such a manner? Some of the fans of football and Zidane finally realized that their hero, the shy, modest and humble boy, was a human with all his virtuous qualities and his defaults.
Zidane then was unfairly criticized by the French public and media. Today “Zizou” is adulated by the French media, one journalist even compared him to De Gaulle, describing his departure from Real Madrid FC institution: “ It’s a Gaulian departure.”
Though Zidane’s story narrative in the French media and the public to some extent has been based on an unusual suspect character, mysterious. The media speak about pride, stubbornness and his close and virtuous family circle that impacted his decision — he is by nature quiet, but determined, he cultivates emotion with motion, the way he did on the pitch as recently on the bench.
Today at the press conference in Madrid, the Spanish sport journalists like their French counterparts insisted on knowing what made Zizou decide to leave the club now? His departure was not expected. Yet on Saturday night, during the trophy celebration, I noted that Zizou wasn’t celebrating or excited like the two previous editions; I said to myself, Zizou is hiding something, I turned to my friend and asked him: if you were him, what would you do? I’d leave the Real now, he said. I didn’t ask why.
That’s exactly what I would do, if I were him. On Sunday, I called my uncle who is crazy about Real Madrid, I asked about his garden and how are the lawn and the roses doing?! He asked me what did I think about Benzema’s majestic game and Zizou’s amazing coaching tactic; my uncle was cheering for Real Madrid before Zidane and I were born, his memory takes you back to the glory days of the Argentinean De Stefano and the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas… In our conversation I launched him a metric pass, to provoke my cranky uncle in Ramadan, what would Zizou do now? He replied, “he’d quit football, and go for a golden retirement in the Canary Islands.”
I said, “Really, don’t you realize what he achieved in two and a half years as a coach?” He continued, “… three Champion League Cups, two Club World Cups, two UEFA Super-Cups, one Liga champ, one Super-Cup, and not to mention World and European champion with France and Real Madrid as a player.” After my uncle listed all these trophies for me, I was speechless, also gave me a headache…
Though, when I saw Zidane answering the question of what made you decide to leave now, I thought about the young boy who grew up in a very modest, Algerian immigrant family from northeast Algeria (little Kabylie), with a hard-working father and a strong housewife-mother.
His parents gave him a strength to cope with the social-racial struggle in his tough Marseille neighborhood to become the most valuable and lovable player in the world, and an out-standing coach, like Didier Deshamps (French national squad coach and former teammate) put it. He has shown millions of kids in France’s popular neighborhoods in large cities that hard work, talent and commitment will pay off.
He has captured the hearts of millions, kids even adults, in the world from Athaghemoune (Algeria) to Melbourne (Australia).
His overreaction however, to the Italian defender raised another cultural and societal matter in the complex relations between the East and the West and the cliché on the young French with North African immigrant descent, like his surprising decision to leave the legendary club in a glory moment. A person who has the same cultural background could understand Zidane’s act and would interpret it as sign of honor for his family (Edah Ennif) as one would say in Algerian.
Unlike the rest who saw it as a villainous act and betrayal of his teammates in a shaky moment in the game as well as his farewell departure decision today from the Merengue team bench, and maybe the Casablanca.
Nevertheless, Zidane was the best player of his generation, and he might well be the best coach of his generation — one might argue, right now, the best coach is Man City, the Catalan Pep Guardiola, unlike Zizou who found the all stars’ team, built and led by the Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti, who picked Zidane as his assistant coach in 2013-15 season.
He will always be remembered accordingly for his elegant passes, beautiful goals and magical coaching decisions like the one he made in the 60th minute in Kiev last Saturday in the C1 Finale against Liverpool, when he entered Gareth Bale who scored two goals, one of them a splendid goal in a high returned kick like his coach in 2002 in the C1 finale against Bayern 04 Leverkusen.
Zidane has attained the level of another world-wide sports genius, Mohammed Ali, in terms of admiration and respect. Zizou is still the son of the banlieue, which nowadays has become a source of the French malaise according to French racist politicians and media, even if he lives now in a mansion in Spain. He still remembers Marseille and its Mediterranean charm, his street games, how to dribble, how to feint and fight — in other words, he has never forgotten his social origin.
This man learned the hard way how and when to say good-bye; timing in these moments is important like how to make any conclusive pass or position in the pitch to score, or change a player when your team is in a doubt; only genius tactician knows how to deal with these instinctive moments of courage, glory and pride.
His decision today answers what happened on Sunday, July 9th 2006 and Thursday, May 31st, 2018 afternoon. “Time has come to me, but I am not tired,” he told the journalists in a press conference room. He decided to leave the Real FC before Real Madrid leaves him; the fans will miss him, his classy style and his mystic smile, persona and his truly human nature.
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