Captain Snarky

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20 July 2006

With Head Butt Ruling is FIFA Going Politically Correct or Just Bowing to Pressure?

So FIFA has decided to punish both Zidane [warning: annoying Flash and beef cake PR photos] and Materazzi [Wikipedia entry] for Zidane's infamous head butt attack. At least it seems that there is agreement that the comments were not racist in nature, so the hate mongers can just chill the fark out on that argument. The reasoning and the punishment seem to follow the prevailing logic in France - that Zidane was provoked and, by implication, that Materazzi is at fault. The old blame the victim approach to justice. Not that the victim is innocent as a babe by any means, but still the Captain calls bullsh*t on FIFA's decision and here's why...

First, verbal taunts and the psychological 'warfare' that they support are part of the game, as they are to varying degrees part of most sports. By trying to establish some sort of line with regards to insults and name calling for the first time ever, and then saying that Materazzi crossed that line, FIFA is wading to a very subjective area and in doing so could alter the game in ways that it does not intend. Rob Smyth at the Guardian puts it well:

In punishing Materazzi so strictly for the mundane sporting offence of "insulting" comments, Fifa has defenestrated norms and mores that have been part of football's fabric since time immemorial. And in doing so, they would appear to have opened a Pandora's Box: is sledging now banned? If not, what did Materazzi say that was so insulting as to demand punishment? Where is the line drawn? How can a line be drawn in an area that intrinsically produces the greyest shades?

Not everyone is as calm as Rob is, particularly the Italian press. But moving on...

The second issue is that Zidane was the one who used full-on violence, as he has numerous times in the past. Punishing the person who taunted him diminishes the strength of the ruling by saying that this disgusting behavior is almost acceptable in certain circumstances. Codswallop. That behavior is never acceptable. It really doesn't matter what is said, it's a game. A grown man's game. Sticks and stones vs. words that never hurt me, eh? Bottom line, FIFA should have punished Zidane and only Zidane to reinforce the fact that first and foremost violence is unacceptable.

Third, the punishment seems a bit uneven. Zidane is retired now so instead of missing games he offered to serve three days of community service. Nice PR move, slick. On the other hand Materazzi will miss two games, ironically including one where Italy will face France again. Lastly, the fines are more symbolic than punitive for guys that make millions of euros, but interestingly Zidane was fined about $6,000 and Mazeratti was fined about $4,000. That seems to suggest that the Italian defender is about 66% as guilty as Zidane - lol.

Personally, I would have some respect for Zidane as a person had he simply apologized with no ifs, ands or buts. Between his losing it the way he did with an awful act of violence and his justification of the same, there isn't much there for me to hold on to...

Oh well, I'm sure life will go on anyway. Heh. At least we got some laughs out of the whole thing, with my favorite head butt video being this one.


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